Bear Truths in Mammoth Lakes

A two and a half hour discussion at the September 3 Town Council meeting ended with several steps forward for the Bear With Us organization, even after its President Joe Parrino expressed several rude remarks. All of the deliberations however, seem to be taking their toll on the public as one woman stated she doesn’t even know who to call anymore in the instance of a bear burglary.

Do I call the police department or do I call Steve? she asked.

On the table were six items that Bear With Us had requested be discussed and which the Town hopes will clarify the community’s questions. In a staff report from Police Chief Randy Schienle, the six items were broken down and each given options for the Council to choose from.

Underscoring this diplomatic way of pursuing an end result were remarks that Marianne OConnor, Treasurer of Bear With Us, had claimed Mayor Wendy Sugimura had said at a Wildlife Committee meeting on June 3. Local media reported that O’Connor had in her notes from that meeting that Sugimura had said she never wanted to deal with Steve Searles or his family again.

After hearing from several members of the public who backed up either OConnor or Sugimura, everyone was told to put the item behind them and put their focus back on the bears.

In the future we need to take official minutes at these meetings and have them approved before they are released to the public, said Mayor Pro Tem Neil McCarroll.

As for the six items on the table for the Council to deliberate, only five ended up being relevant. Item four, which was consideration of the conditional offer of a donation from a private citizen, was no longer an option as the citizen had stated in his original offer that it was only good until July 31.

Council did approve releasing the additional $5,000 to Bear With Us that had been tabled until later back in June when the first $10,000 was distributed to the group in order to get it off the ground.

Council also chose to allow the Wildlife Management Specialist to use a S.C.A.T. kit in wildlife diversion, with the understanding that the kit has everything in it for the Specialist to do his job and protect himself. They also agreed to provide the organization with a gas allowance, amount to be determined, in lieu of donating a vehicle at this time.

Council then reviewed the make-up of the Towns Wildlife Committee to see if any changes should be made. Councilman John Eastman expressed at the August 20 meeting that he would like to join the committee if one of his fellow council members already sitting on it would like to step down. The two members on the Committee are Skip Harvey and Sugimura. There was a general feeling of content as Harvey announced that he wanted to stay on the Committee, but when Sugimura stated that she would like to do the same, Parrino audibly groaned.

What happens when you deliver your baby? he questioned the pregnant Mayor.

Harvey interceded and told him the meeting was not the place for questions like those, and then moved on in the discussion.

The last item, which had been requested by Searles, was to hire him back as a part-time employee as the Towns Wildlife Specialist. According to Searles, hiring him back would make items 1-5 moot points, however, Council agreed that they do not have the budget at this time to do such a thing. They voted instead to not hire Searles back at this time, but added that the item would be subject to review in the 2009/2010 budget discussions.

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