Mammoth Lakes Recreation’s three-year contract with the Town of Mammoth Lakes expires at the end of June.
On Wednesday, MLR Executive Director Matt McClain pleaded for MLR’s very life before Mammoth Town Council.
Town staff had recommended “the agreement not be renewed under a similar form.”
The issue: Dissatisfaction with MLR over a lack of “deliverables” and an overarching question as to why MLR exists at all.
What does MLR do and is this different than what the TOML Parks and Recreation Department does or what Mammoth’s Recreation Commision does?
MLR is funded by Measure R, a sales tax measure.
Sales tax revenues have fallen off a cliff since March. Dedicated Measure R allocations to the Multi-Use Facility, trails, et. al. must be paid.
The easiest way for Patterson to balance the projected budget deficit is to eliminate MLR staff.
MLR was formed in 2014. One of its main responsibilities (at the time) was to facilitate the allocation of Measure R and U tax funds.
The most recent three-year contract, signed in 2017, gave a set of deliverables to be met.
Fundraising was among those deliverables.
The staff report reads, “The larger fundraising goals for MLR have not been achieved. This includes raising ongoing operational funding of $100,000 per year or more by the end of the current agreement … The implementation of the plan with a target minimum goal of $2 million for the term of this agreement has not materialized.”
“While MLR has had some success, the overall ability to enhance, support and deliver recreational experiences, to raise capital funds, and to increase self-sustainability have not been achieved.”
The report smacked of infanticide.
Colin Fernie, who serves on the board for MLR, presaged Wednesday’s carnage at Tuesday’s MLR Board meeting.
“I think it is a little bit of an odd agenda item that we have in front of us because essentially we are being asked whether we follow a Town Staff recommendation that would eliminate the organization. Or we go with a MLR staff recommendation that would balance the budget and keep the organization moving forward. And really, the only fundamental difference between those two proposals that we are seeing is $100,000.”
And on Wednesday, when his turn came up, Matt McClain’s argued for his life.
And he argued for one hour and two minutes, bringing up every arcane thing MLR has ever done.
And he defended his fundraising record.
On why he couldn’t raise $2 million, never mind $20,000, McClain told Council that you can’t fundraise for items that aren’t approved.
How do you fundraise for an ice rink that may never happen? Why would people park their money with you?
Sauser told McClain that if MLR couldn’t accomplish a deliverable then the obvious course of action is to tell Council that the deliverable is unachievable.
Last year MLR had about $1.2 million in its emergency fund. This would not count as a funding source. But if some crazy event like a pandemic were to happen, MLR would have some insurance.
“The reason that staff put this forward, you know, we made a commitment of $1.2 million out of reserves. That was all of our rainy day money,” said McClain, “Because a year ago we stood behind [the CRC]. We were told hey, here is a new option. We think we can do this and we made that leap of faith as a board. It wasn’t a clean vote, it wasn’t a unanimous vote.”
$1.2 million to a project that was over budget and therefore rebid. It hasn’t been spent. But it sure ain’t coming back to MLR – unless Council relents.
Town Manager Dan Holler then told the board there were many options between funding and defunding. For example, Option 2 is a ‘slow wind-down of MLR as a Town funded Non-Governmental Organization (NGO).’ This would give MLR 3-6 months to complete its current programs in order to ensure a smooth transition of responsibilities.
THE COUNCIL WEIGHS IN
The actual Council deliberation got off to a rocky start. After 25 minutes of Holler and more than an hour from McClain
Mayor Bill Sauser was not a fan.
Said Sauser: “I had no idea I was going to get a two hour, slick, sales presentation. I’m not happy about not being notified about that or where it leads to.”
The show must go on.
Every public comment supported re-signing MLR’s contract.
Sandy Hogan, speaking as a member of the public, was in Suite Z to explain that at first, upon MLR’s inception in 2014, she was against MLR. But according to her letter to Council, “The current organization, with its solid Board and subcommittees, Executive Director and small team are now functioning well. To dismantle this long effort and once again ‘start fresh’ without giving it another year, at a reduced budget as proposed, will just be another costly effort ‘toss on the shelf.’”
Betsy Truax, Chair of Mammoth’s Recreation Commission, spoke “as a member of the public,” and gave her support.
David Page, MLR Treasurer, kept his comments short and sweet. “I think the timing on this is problematic and unfortunate. The Town Manager deemed us non-essential so we had a meeting last night. I would just encourage [Council] to think about what the return on investment is on the proposed $142,000 with another year’s contract with MLR.
I think the conversation about deliverables is incredibly disingenuous especially listening to the deliverables for MLT for a $6 million contract.”
Page urged Council to at least give MLR a yearlong contract so it can properly handle some of its projects related to trails.
Finally, Council was set to make a decision.
The deliberation lasted about 12 minutes. In that time, Council managed to come up with a new solution that blended a couple of the recommendations from Town Staff.
Councilman John Wentworth made the motion, “A staff direction to engage with the board leadership of MLR to negotiate a contract whereby the Town is requesting the following services. Ongoing recommendations for Measure R and U funds, oversight of the Mammoth Trails program, and continued oversight of the Eastern Sierra Recreation Coordinator. And for the mutually agreed upon financial arrangement to be brought to the Council for consideration.”
Council member Cleland Hoff seconded the motion. Sauser asked if there was any further deliberation.
Councilman Kirk Stapp confirmed what was happening. “Basically the contract will be brought back to us with deliverables and everything so that we can see what we are buying?”
“Correct,” said Wentworth.
“And it will be a much shortened deliverable and contract?” Asked Sauser.
“Yes,” responded Wentworth.
The motion passed 4-1 with a no vote from Sauser.