When the Town of Mammoth Lakes and Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition go back to court on Friday, Judge Randall will decide if he will issue a writ on behalf of MLLA or not. If the Judge does order in favor of MLLA, that will mean Mammoth has a short time frame for payment of the $42 million lawsuit debt owed to MLLA.
When asked about the repercussions of that pending writ, Town Financial Advisor Marianna Marysheva-Martinez said that if the writ is granted it becomes a court order which would give the Town until the end of this fiscal year in June to pay off the debt. That’s what MLLA requested of the court. However, there is another option.
Martinez said that as a municipality, the Town would also have the option to come up with a payment plan over the next ten years at 7% interest. Martinez said a new law that went into effect in January allows cities not able to pay judgments to apply for a ten-year payment schedule. Can Mammoth even make that kind of payment? Martinez said, “Our position is, no.”
At the same time MLLA has pressed for this court action, the Town of Mammoth has urged mediation between the two parties. Asked for the latest on that, Martinez said that she understands from attorneys hired by the Town that MLLA has expressed interest in mediation but has not followed the required format to start the process. Martinez added that the new law this year says that municipalities must try to conduct mediation in cases like Mammoth’s.
The Town continues to try to mediate with MLLA and with all other Town creditors. In addition to the payment of the $42 million, the Town now faces a $2.2 million budget shortfall. Martinez said she believes the Town is getting responses from other Town creditors to mediate.
Reports had also indicated that Town government would ask employee groups and others to take a 10% pay cut in view of all the financial difficulties. When asked about that, Martinez said that officials have told employee unions about the financial crunch. Martinez said, “I told them that the $2.2 million shortfall is 10 to 15% of our $16 million budget.” Martinez said employees reminded the Town that their wage contracts are closed, but Martinez also said that without employees’ help, it will be hard to balance the budget.
Officials say they need to negotiate with workers as soon as possible. Martinez said she has begun to set up meetings to spell out the realities of why there is a shortfall. These realities include a much reduced level of transient occupancy tax.