Privately, citizens in Mammoth Lakes are saying that Town officials “orchestrated their online survey to match their already decided on plan.” At last week’s Town Council meeting, even though the survey revealed that only about a third of the respondents supported the cut of seven police officers, all five councilmembers seemed to support the police reduction. At least two of them said no new taxes. All five seemed ready to go ahead with the October re-structuring plan of town government.
After more comments from the public, the Town Council decided to have one more meeting this month before their December 5th final vote on restructuring. The item that caused a special meeting this Tuesday was the mention of creating a Business Improvement District.
When Councilman Michael Raimondo asked Mammoth Mountain CEO Rusty Gregory if he would support a lift ticket or admissions tax, Gregory said, “There’s a better way – a Business Improvement District.” Essentially, this district would place a tax on all businesses. Informed sources say that officials have been meeting to talk about this subject with no real firm plan in place.
The Town survey, which seemed to say two-thirds did not want police cuts, also showed various percentages supporting new or higher taxes to avoid those cuts. Some also supported further cuts in tourism, transit and housing. 58% said look for other ways to keep police at a lower cost. Another 58% said use Measure R money to keep Whitmore Pool open. Written comments pointed to Police Chief Dan Watson’s pay, although many don’t have the right numbers. Watson’s salary is $183,000 with a $50,000 cut to come under the restructuring plan. Others want to eliminate the Assistant Town Manager, Marianna Marysheva-Martinez and her $200,000 plus contract.
Written comments pointed to Police Chief Dan Watson’s pay, although many don’t have the right numbers. Watson’s salary is $183,000 with a $50,000 cut to come under the restructuring plan. Others want to eliminate the Assistant Town Manager, Marianna Marysheva-Martinez.
The restructuring plan includes other cuts too – consolidation of parks and road maintenance, cuts in Community Development, elimination of an IT specialist and a budget manager.
Public comments ranged from support of new taxes to pay off the MLLA debt to Snowcreek’s Chuck Lande calling for focus on planning to prepare for future growth. Kirk Stapp and Supervisor Larry Johnston stood up to support Mammoth Lakes Housing’s work and no more cuts. Others spoke against cuts in the police department. Rich McAteer called for public safety first and no cuts in police. Sean Turner pointed to the very difficult business environment and the need to examine Measure R and other means to save Whitmore Pool.
Mayor Matthew Lehman said he would stick with cuts to the police department, which he said is “doing a great job.” He also said it’s up to the police officers to renegotiate their contract for savings. He said the Town has to be “development ready”. Lehman said he would consider new taxes if the community brought a petition to the Council.
Councilwoman Jo Bacon stood by police cuts. She supported volunteer programs generally. Mayor Pro-Tem Rick Wood said he would not support tax increases of any kind. He said, “Let’s focus on what we can afford.”
Councilman John Eastman called what has been happening “a once in a lifetime, sobering experience. He also said he does not support any more taxes unless a proposal is brought forward by the public. He also does not support taking money from already approved tax measures or making cuts in tourism, housing and transit.
More on the situation at Tuesday night’s Town Council meeting at 6pm.