Still wounded by the Town of Mammoth’s bankruptcy declaration on Monday, citizens both condemned and praised the Town Council Wednesday when they met to consider using $400,000 of utility tax money to subsidize air service.
Mayor Matthew Lehman said the crowd that came to the Fourth of July Council meeting was about 50-50. “Some were frustrated,” he said, “and some were in favor of using Measure U funds.” Lehman said the perception that the Council had been “sneaky” in holding a holiday meeting with little notice is incorrect. Mayor Lehman said, “We received information Tuesday that if we did not go forward with the summer/fall air service subsidy, Alaska Air would pull all its flights out.”
Lehman said it was Mammoth Mountain that “mentioned it.” He said Councilman Michael Raimondo called Alaska Air to verify this. “There was a high risk and they were considering pulling flights,” said Lehman. He said this is why the Council called a special meeting quickly. The Mayor said Alaska Air gave Mammoth Mountain Ski Area a deadline to sign their ongoing air service contract Friday.
Lehman said he believes “air service is too big and important. We couldn’t wait.” In view of the fact that the Town of Mammoth has just filed for bankruptcy protection, would Mammoth Mountain consider paying the Town’s share of the subsidy? Mayor Lehman said, “We asked if they would. They were not willing.” The Mayor said air service is a priority in the Town’s General Plan.
Asked if bankruptcy weren’t a game changer for a lot of things, Lehman said he doesn’t think the Town and citizens are willing to jeopardize air service. He said Mammoth “wants to be competitive with other resorts.”
After some citizens voiced opposition to use of Measure U or utility tax revenue and some supported it, Mayor Lehman said the Council decided to respect the Measure U process and see what is possible. He said that the Council has asked the committees involved with Measure U allocations to examine the process and see if the Town can use utility tax for air service subsidy. Lehman said the Town will “probably submit an application for Measure U funds.” Lehman also said that the Town is “trying to have discussions with Howard Pickett and Rusty Gregory at Mammoth Mountain.”