Town Council okays a loan from Measure U dollars

After Measure U Committee concerns and lots of public comment, the Council voted unanimously for a loan from Measure U.With a large crowd at the Mammoth Town Council meeting Wednesday night, Mammoth Mountain CEO Rusty Gregory pressed the Town to help out with air service subsidy money. He said, “I’m not faking it. Alaska Air is really watching us and how we handle the bankruptcy.” He called air service “basic infrastructure.” The CEO, just out of a rough public meeting in June Lake the night before, said, “People are watching this vote and whether the community is behind it. It matters,” said Gregory, “and we need a vote or air service is over with tonight.”

Gregory told the Council Alaska Air was really watching to see how the Town handles the bankruptcy.Gregory had explained that the banks that hold the loans for Mammoth Mountain Ski Area demanded that the company make some more big cuts in expenses to meet loan financial requirements. That demand led to the closure of June Mountain and the loss of air service subsidy money for the fall. Gregory said when Mammoth Mountain told Alaska Air they did not want to guarantee service for the fall, the airline, Gregory said, told Mammoth Mountain either pay for fall or Alaska will pull out all air service to Mammoth Lakes.

Most people who spoke at the meeting Wednesday supported air service and the Town payment for part of the subsidy. Town Manager Dave Wilbrecht said the staff recommended a loan from Measure U or utility tax funds. Councilman John Eastman wanted to know how such a decision would impact the current bankruptcy court proceedings. Town Attorney Andy Morris said the court could not touch special tax money like Measure U. “It’s not available for settlement of the lawsuit,” he said.

Business owner Tom Cage pointed to return on investment – $325,000 for air service subsidy in exchange for $1 million from the FAA due to more than 10,000 enplanements every year and a lot more in tax dollars from those who fly into town. Said Cage, “Its probably four times the investment.” Others spoke of the critical nature of air service for Mammoth as a tourist town and as a home to locals.

Supervisor Byng Hunt of Mammoth was asked if Mono County would help with subsidy money. He chastised the Council for trying to use Measure U money, said he supported air

Tom Cage pointed to return on investment.

service, but told the Council to “get back to basics.” Hunt said the County has not voted on its budget yet and faces big money problems too.

Later Tom Cage stood up again to loudly accuse Hunt of failure to support air service. Cage said to Hunt, “I’m appalled you don’t think there’s enough benefit to at least say you will

fight for some level of air service. I am appalled,” shouted Cage, “that you are telling us to get back to basics. How dare you!”

Ward Jones, developer and motel owner, said he invested in Mammoth in large part because air service was on the way. Jones said, “The decision you make tonight is being watched very closely. You are under the microscope like you wouldn’t believe.”

Council members basically said there was no other money to use, air service is critical and the time is now. Jo Bacon made a motion to approve a resolution for a loan from Measure U to the Town to be paid back next fiscal year or July 1 of 2013. Michael Raimondo seconded the motion. The vote was unanimous.


30 Responses to Town Council okays a loan from Measure U dollars

  1. Really Fed up July 12, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

    At least they did not pull from Measure U, The flood gates would have definitely opened then. There would have been no stopping what the money would have been used for. The funny thing is that Rick Wood still does not get it. If Measure U was to have been awarded for airport subsidy there would be no money for projects like his Track at whitmore in the future.

  2. johndoeml July 12, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

    The bankrupt town will pay back the loan? No. This is theft from Measure U funds. It won’t be paid back as everyone on the council knows.

    • upthecreek July 13, 2012 at 10:27 am #

      Like I have said MANY times before..

      We need to get the “GREED” out of this town and the Mountain . Until we do It will be More of the same …
      The people really need to” WAKE UP”

      Govt gone wild

  3. Bret July 12, 2012 at 10:24 pm #

    Mark my words that loan money from Measure U will never be repaid after MMSA declares BK. Taking money form the many and directing it an incompetent company will not solve a thing. I’ve seen this happen 4 years ago when the big banks went begging for money and predicting chaos if they were not bailed out. Look at the results, is the banking system back to normal, are people getting loans? Trust me it’s never different this time.

  4. H July 12, 2012 at 11:40 pm #

    Yes, this Council is a sneaky bunch. But the shell game of kicking the can down the road will come to a crashing end at some point and the community will pay dearly long after these clowns are no longer on Council. It comes to an end when the Town’s application for bankruptcy will be rejected – a bankruptcy judge should see through the games this Council is playing. This is why lawyers should not be controlling our political decisions – its all a game to them at the expense of the community.

    • upthecreek July 13, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

      “its all a game to them at the expense of the community.”

      lawyers are very good at two things.
      Sending out bills for 500-800 dollars per hour and getting More complicated laws passed .. Forcing you to use their services. All part of the game .


    • taxifornia July 13, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

      The Can has been kicked for 10 years now.
      I think they need a new can.

      Fire them all

  5. Jake July 13, 2012 at 6:30 am #

    Thanks for subsidizing Tom and Rusty’s business venture’s, can I get a loan for my local tourist business?

  6. JeanGenie July 13, 2012 at 11:14 am #

    Has everyone forgotten Alpha Air? Mammoth has had air service before, and it was unable to survive. As far as residents of Mammoth depending on air service, everyone knows you drive to Reno and fly out of there. Most people can’t afford to pay $250 to fly to LA or Reno then catch whatever flight to wherever. You can fly to Europe for less than that.
    I’ve met plenty of people that fly in to Reno and rent a car to ski Mammoth.
    Anyway my bottom line is, if I lived in Mammoth, and was expected to subsidize air services with my tax money, I would be absolutely livid and mount a recall campaign against the Town Council. Air service is not infrastructure, we live in the middle of nowhere, and it is ludicrous to think that continuing air service will make or break Mammoth Mt. Mismanagement and debt have already broken it, thanks to Rusty’s fine management skills and incapacity to try to appeal to and make affordable a skiing experience to people who are not wealthy.

    • Ken Warner July 13, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

      All good points. There are substantial problems with the way acquiring air service for the Easter Sierra is being done. Your critique outlines only some of the problems. And there is no discussion about those problems. It’s just subsidize Alaska Airlines and forget about the details like no FAA approved airport layout plan for the airport that actually could have a positive economic impact and be self sustaining.

      The discussion is always, “…we have to have air service at MMH now and without it the town’s doomed.” No cost/benefit analysis. No analysis of the ultimate cost and where those dollars will come from in a county that has 35,000 people most of whom work for low wages.

  7. Unwarranted Attack July 13, 2012 at 11:28 am #

    Tom Cage’s shouting attack on Supervisor Hunt was ill-founded an unwarranted.
    Supervisor Hunt has always clearly stated his support for the airport but has also stated he cannot speak for the entire board whose districts may or may not directly benefit from it. It’s doubtful that air visitors are going to rent a car and travel to North County’s Bridgeport and points north to spend their tourist dollars. This is what Mr. Hunt was correctly driving at.
    Frankly, there are those who believe it would benefit the County to move the county seat to Mammoth for obvious economic reasons but this is another issue that hopefully can be considered as the economy worsens.

    • Ken Warner July 13, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

      I think Tom Cage either mis-interpreted what Hunt said or thought he said something else. He explained quite clearly that Mono County supported air service but that they had not yet met to discuss how to support air service. Rusty just sprung this ransom demand on the town in a day. How could anyone have anticipated it? Our town manager said quite clearly that there was no general funds money available and Cage didn’t even blink.

      And Hunt’s point that a town that is “…well kept…” will attract more visitors than a town whose infrastructure has been neglected in favor of providing convenient access.

      Our town “Stakeholders” confuse easy access with desirability. Just because you can fly into somewhere doesn’t mean you want to.

    • Roger Rilling July 13, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

      Maybe?– Car rental business at airport– connection to tom cage and loss of temper? –just saying-

      • H July 15, 2012 at 11:48 am #

        Perhaps Mr. Cage should donate 10 cents per gallon at his Chevron Station in Mammoth towards the airport subsidy. His pricing of a gallon of gas along with the other stations in Mammoth reflects badly in the minds of our guests and visitors who feel they are getting taken advantage of… Just another “legend in his own mind” …

  8. Trouble July 13, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

    Wow Mammoth- how do you think the bankruptcy judge is going to like this back room deal / loan ?

    • upthecreek July 13, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

      The judge has already received his yearly mountain pass….LOL

  9. Wayne Deja July 13, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    Don’t people up there in Mammoth realize when you borrow money…or make a loan…eventually you have to pay it back ?…You can only file bankruptcy so many times…unless your playing the game of Monopoly.

  10. Friar Tuck July 13, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

    Rusty to the Town Council –

    “Their watching you tonight, we need a 5-0 or the planes will disappear”

    You know who was watching? Your citizens, calling a special meeting on the 4th of July, like a bunch of Keystone cops. I, like many others who pay the taxes that were ” borrowed ” are not happy. Many of us ask for very little in services, we came here for the ambience that the natural beauty of the eastern Sierras provides. We don’t have our fingers in the pie like many of the business people and town leaders present at the meeting. I pay my measure U tax for the town quality of life improvements promised, not for a business subsidy air, train or long distance bus with or without a return on investment. This is a quality of life tax, not a quality of business tax issue. Using tax dollars for non town negotiated subsidy is plain wrong. I thought Prop. 218 was passed for this very reason?

    While i enjoy many of the amenities the town offers, I have lived without many of them most of my adult life, I intend do so once again. I pledge not to spend money in any town business that is not absolutely necessary. I am going to do this until I’m convinced that the towns taxpayers are town councils priority and the measure U money is paid back. TOT comes and goes, it’s who feeds you in the down times that counts.

    Chasing the phantom wealthy customers of a competitors and not delivering the goods is a fools game. Your longtime customers are watching and are seriously looking for a better return for their entertainment dollars too.

    The dollar statistics claimed by the tourist guru’s sure haven’t trickled down to the town at street level. The town looks tired and in need of a face lift, to late for a make over in many places. People have been saying it as long as I can remember, if you make a town a great place to be and live,the tourist dollars you seek will come too.

    This boom to bust mentality is nothing more than a ponzi scheme that seems to be looped in the towns psyche. This town is out of control on busy days, especially holiday weekends and the guest experience blows! We can’t handle the business we get during the busy time and can’t afford the down time due to the cost of doing the towns business.

    Skier visits are down because of value for the dollar and competing interest for that same monies in a down global economy . We charge top dollar for a mediocre tourist experience in my opinion.

    I like many people are in favor of sustainable development including an airport. I am not in favor of putting the cart in front of the horse. I’ve said it before, we need better planning, funding and management in place before we can seriously attempt to compete and keep the real air tourist. This bubble building development and you can’t see it from my house mentality needs to change.

    My hope is that the new and young blood can do the job that the old timers on the town council have failed to do. We’re not off to a good start, but these are tough and unique times.

    • Ken Warner July 13, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

      I agree. But I think the town government is so incapable of rational, long term planning that the town will have to completely fail to get the clique of “stakeholders” out of the town leadership. I see no way of trying to reason with them. They’ve got it fixed in their minds that they know what’s best and even looking at the financial disaster the airport has become, they still poor money on it.

      It just doesn’t make any sense.

      And one more thing, the business community complains the loudest when taxes are imposed. Yet what does the business community do when they need investment and don’t want to come up with it themselves? They go to the town council and cry to them about how their business would be hurt if the town doesn’t pay the bill.

      The cumulative wealth in Suite Z on Wed. could have easily paid Alaska’s ransom demand. Yet they offered no real concrete suggestions other than Tom Cage who suggested businesses commit to buying seats on the aircraft. And then there was crickets…..

    • Tourbillon July 14, 2012 at 10:08 am #

      Many consider commercial air to be a quality of life issue, not a quality of business issue as you characterize it. Simply because it might also happen to help businesses does not mean it is bad, or that it is not a mobility issue, or that for many of us, flying to other places as opposed to onerous driving increases our quality of life.

      • Ken Warner July 14, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

        Seems I have to correct you (again). I don’t characterize air service as a quality of business issue. It is a business issue. Your assertion that air service is a quality of life issue is absolutely correct. But it’s not one or the other it’s both.

        And the Chamber of Commerce argued the same thing. That it’s a quality of life issue. The problem is the poor way the business of providing air service is being conducted.

        The question is not whether or not air service is good or bad. It’s essential for the Eastern Sierra. Everybody agrees on that. The disagreement is how to pay for it and who should pay for it.

        It’s typical of short sighted people to argue against their own misinterpretation of others words.

        • Tourbillon July 14, 2012 at 8:01 pm #

          Calm yourself Warner. My response was not to you, but to Friar (which is why it is on the same indentation as your reply to Friar is, but you have to be inquisitive, not looking for a fight, to notice). Have another beer, turn on The Kardashians or Rachel Maddow or whatever it is you watch in all your spare time, and relax, will ya?

          • Ken Warner July 15, 2012 at 12:06 pm #

            My apologies —

          • Friar Tuck July 15, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

            I do hope we get another bite of the apple Tourbillion. Both “tax” measures should be put to a repeal challenge, we can then decide this”tax” issue was based on voters intentions instead of a politicians interpretation.

            I think Rusty duped the taxpayers with the help of the Mammoth 5-0 town council. I don’t remember any approval being authorized for anyone to negotiate a taxpayer air service subsidy of $475,000, $325,000″ loan” from the town measure U funds and $150,000 Mammoth Lakes Tourism.

            I consider this manner of doing business to be an egregious abuse of power. It may not be illegal, but it has the pungent odor of an exotic cheese.

  11. Shame on Tom Cage July 14, 2012 at 5:15 am #

    Tom Cage owes a public apology to Supervisor Hunt. Hunt has always been a supporter of air service and has made it quite clear that he cannot speak for the other supervisors (some of which live in Timbuktu and contribute ? to the county’s overall economy but receive all the benefits). Childish tirades against each other are unacceptable in tough times. Get a hold of yourself, Cage.

    • No he does not! July 15, 2012 at 10:59 am #

      Tom Cage owes no one an apology.
      He has the right to speak his mind.
      Non of you noticed the folks who spoke for an Air subsidy. They were the same who ranted about commercial flights to begin with. Hunt needs to support his community in that what he lives in. Same goes for Larry.

      This area needs regional transportation

      Alaska does it most efficiently with a prop plane, much more fuel efficient than a jet.
      We need to stop complaining about having flights to Bishop. Bishop did not step up to the plate.

      • Ken Warner July 15, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

        Bishop only got a long term lease from LADWP this year. Without that, the FAA wouldn’t help them develop it. Now that Bishop has a long term lease, it will be interesting to see how the development of that airport proceeds. It’s already a more developed airport with more room than Mammoth Yosemite Airport.

        And if you bother to watch the video of that meeting, you will see that Hunt slowly and clearly explained the constraints he is under. It’s silly to condemn the man because Rusty pops up with an overnight demand for $300,000 cash. It would have been easier for the Stakeholders in the room to come up with that amount of money. Rusty himself could do it.

        So getting P.O. at Hunt because he didn’t pull $300,000 out of his pocket to give to Rusty that night does not mean he doesn’t support air service.

      • It's how you say it July 16, 2012 at 5:19 am #

        It’s now what you say (right to speak one’s mind) – it’s HOW you say it (Cage childishly shouting at Hunt in public even though Hunt has always supported air service)
        If we want to hear childish shouting we’ll all turn in to Rush Limbaugh. This kind of “communication” is spreading today and does nothing but cause hatred.

  12. MtnHiker July 14, 2012 at 8:12 am #

    If Mammoth Lakes has borrowed the money from Measure U, what money is left to do the jobs Measure U was originally intended for? Is there a date this money will be paid back by, if at all?

    • Benett Kessler July 14, 2012 at 9:56 am #

      The Council said in their motion it is to be paid back by July 1 of next fiscal year or the following fiscal year.


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