PARTYING ON A BUDGET
In October, Mono County’s attempts to host large-scale vaccine clinic events, with the specific intent of outreach to the local Latinx community, fell flat when the Board of Supervisors shot down two separate events that would’ve cost $50,000 each to put on.
The County Public Health Office had partnered with local events producer Green Fox Events to organize the outreach clinics, paying the company a total of $100,000 to plan, set up, and run the events.
The cancellation came on October 12, five days before the first of the two planned events was to take place.
Supervisor Stacy Corless sent an email to Public Health Director Bryan Wheeler, County Administrative Officer Bob Lawton, and County Counsel Stacey Simon on October 12, writing, “I need you all to know that I can’t support this based on the additional information [regarding line-item breakdowns and budgeting]. The fact that this came to the board so late is problematic, as are many of the high-dollar expenditures.”
During the meeting, Supervisor Rhonda Duggan said, “I don’t feel like I can support this, to make a decision [about the contract].” When Wheeler offered a detailed breakdown of the budget, Supervisor Jennifer Kreitz stated, “I’m not comfortable getting numbers on the fly.”
The breakdown of costs, per a public records request made by The Sheet, includes the following:
-$3,000 for venue rental
-$2,500 for decorations and installation
-$4,000 for a live band including travel, lodging, and audio equipment
-$2,000 for games, a dunk tank, rentals and $3,000 for children’s entertainers
-$8,000 for food/beverages via a food truck from Latin Market and an ice cream truck
-$2,000 for chairs and tables
-$13,050 for hours necessary to coordinate events and manage volunteers, as well as marketing consultation, estimating 90-150 staff hours per event plus all other associated costs
-$1,500 for directional signage
-$2,400 for an on-site project manager and assistant project manager, 20 hours total
-$8,000 profit to Green Fox Events (any amount remaining)
That list does not include some smaller associated costs such as permits, audio-visual components, and printing supplies/services (i.e. lanyards, t-shirts, first aid, donations, ice).
Green Fox owner Sandra DiDomizio told The Sheet in early December 2021 that the company has a standard 25-50% discount off of standard rates for non-profit/government/teachers/local workers and will often provide rentals for free or at a highly discounted rate.
“That being said,” she added, “we are getting to a point where we are so busy and do not have the time to donate. Our time and expertise (and some event rentals) are our main source of revenue and we are reaching a point in our business where we cannot give it away. Many non-profit and local clients understand this and do not even seek a discount as they need project management done at a high level and quickly.”
DiDomizio explained that once a contract is in place, the company begins hourly work, which is reflected in the overall time put into a project and is non-refundable.
Prior to cancellation by the County, Green Fox had already devoted 63 hours of staff time to the project and secured a substantial portion of the rentals/services required for the October 17 event.
DiDomizio said “I have deep respect for all Mono County staff and for the Public Health department, as I have worked closely with them during the Covid-19 vaccine program. They are tireless and have been on overdrive for almost 2 years. We would love to help plan any outreach event in this community in the future and it would be seamless and fun, allowing county staff to focus on providing support to county residents rather than planning events.”
During the October Supervisors meeting, Wheeler had stated that the Public Health Department had no capacity to run events on their own.
Mono County ultimately paid $3,941.10 to Green Fox Events for services provided prior to cancellation.
The Sheet attended the December 3 Mono County vaccine event at Mammoth High School, where vouchers for free tacos from the Latin Market food truck were distributed to all who received a vaccine that day, boosters and flu shots included.
Wheeler told The Sheet that 345 individuals, both pre-registered and walk-up, received vaccines at that clinic.
A public records request to Mono County revealed that the cost for the clinic was $4,697 for staff and $2,640 for food, for a total of $7,337.
Wheeler also told The Sheet that costs vary for the clinics due to location, size, and staff on hand; in short, the December 3 numbers represent only one event, not the average cost to the County per event.
The money that was designated for the outreach events came from WeVax grant funding from the Public Health Institute, totaling $350,000, $100,000 of which was set aside for the outreach. Those funds were specifically intended for use in vaccine outreach and incentives.
One of the factors playing into the short turnaround in October was the spending deadline for the WeVax grant, initially set for February 2022. Wheeler informed The Sheet that that deadline has since been pushed back to April 2022.
According to information from Wheeler, $89,394 of the original $350,000 had been spent as of the second week of January. He said that the money had been used to obtain home tests, incentive gift cards, food at events, staff hours, and media outreach/advertisement.