After Mammoth Lakes Recreation (MLR) opted to let Executive Director Matt McClain go in September due to budget concerns, the non-profit has been looking at a leaner future moving forward.
Meanwhile, Mammoth Lakes Town Council voted last week, 3-2, to assign Town Manager Dan Holler to look into the possibility of creating a Chief Recreation Officer for Mammoth Lakes that would serve as a go-between for the Town and the Forest Service.
At the Mammoth Lakes Recreatioon board meeting Tuesday night, MLR board member David Page questioned the logic of effectively reviving McClain’s position after it was deemed unnecessary.
“As tied as we have been as an organization to Measures R and U and that being the thrust of our contract negotiation,” Page said, “When we talk about our role in this ecosystem as an organization, it’s sort of surprising to read in The Sheet that suddenly Town Council wants to hire a Chief Recreation Officer using some Measures R and U funds to the tune of the money we just saved by letting go our executive director.”
Likewise, board member Eric Wasserman was curious about Town Council’s decision,
asking about how an organizational flow chart would look with the new Recreation Officer position.
Mayor Bill Sauser noted that the Council had only authorized Town staff to explore what the position might look like, with no concrete conclusions drawn at the moment.
Page noted that hiring somebody to fill that position doesn’t mean that “we can move the agency in the way we want to.”
Sauser countered that the issue “is about the Town having the capacity to comment on things such as land management plans that we really have not had in the past on a town level.”
Board member Heather Schaubmeyer agreed with Sauser, stating, “it was clear more than ever that we need assistance with recreation.”
The meeting also featured discussion around MLR’s contract with the Town of Mammoth Lakes.
In response to a line item in the contract that indicated that MLR would be responsible for developing private support for at least one of the existing arts and culture programs that it sponsors, board member Colin Fernie asked, “In light of everything that’s going on… and a lot of the financial uncertainty that the board is going through, do we feel comfortable with this and think this is a realistic time to insert something like that into our deliverables?”
*Mr. Fernie, use of the term ‘deliverables’ is a shot.
While Fernie’s concerns with the contract’s wording was soon rectified, other board members soon voiced their own concerns about the contract’s structure.
Page opened his comments by saying, “I’m aware that I’m opening a can of worms,” adding that he is concerned for the health of the organization going forward.
“I’m concerned … at the broadness of some of these deliverables (shot) tonight. I’m a little bit frightened … I think we have to take a really hard look at what we can deliver and remember that this contract essentially comes with no funding.”
Page estimated the organization has approximately $100,000 in operations every year and about $150,000 in the bank. “What this sets us up for here,” he said, “is about 100% of [program director Kim Anaclerio]’s time at basically bearing all of our reserves and with nothing left over to do any of the other things that we would need to do to build our organization.”
Schaubmayer explained that the committee that devised the contract with the town “had to put together something that’s general but achievable in the timeframe that we had …knowing that there were going to be changes, knowing that this needs to be looked at in a long-term manner.”
The deliverables (shot) include developing new products/experiences, innovation in existing programs (i.e. planning the Mammoth Trails confederation meeting), fundraising (“The Town and MLR intend that MLR’s use of Town funding will generate a reasonable return on the Town’s investment in MLR, in the form of funds raised from third parties”), working with Matt Paruolo as he transitions to a new role as Eastern Sierra Sustainable Recreation Coordinator, and remain in good standing as an organization.
The overall concern with the deliverables (shot) has to do with possible interpretations of the language, with board members asking specifically about what a “reasonable return on the town’s investment in MLR” would look like; proponents of the contract argue that it will serve as a stopgap before a longer-term contract between MLR and the Town is approved in January 2021.
When asked, as the person in charge of seeing the deliverables (shot) achieved, Anaclerio noted, “I think that the deliverables (shot) are achievable, I think its near full-time work when you have things such as develop new projects,” adding that while simply continuing existing programs would be straightforward, developing new ones would be “another huge chunk to bite off.”
She continued: “I think being partners with town is a good thing, we’re all after the same goal, and I understand there was some intention for vagueness in deliverables (shot) but I also understand that it leaves MLR vulnerable if it’s not up to expectations.”
Wasserman agreed. “I’ve yet to hear someone step up and say they approve of these deliverables (shot),” he said, “Are we then limiting ourselves if we agree to this and say we’ll come back to negotiate our deliverables (shot)?” He noted that he felt, since there’s no contract at the moment, there was no rush to get one in place.
The board ultimately voted 6-0, with Wasserman abstaining, to approve the provisional contract (Why you need to approve a contract with no new funding/agreement in place is beyond me) with some minimal wordsmithing to clear up some of the more vague clauses.