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Mammoth Lakes Recreation, 11 months in the making, won a crucial victory this week when the Town Councl voted unanimously to move it into its final fomation stage.
The council's 5-0 vote came despite some citizen criticism that the formation of the non-governmental organization (NGO) it was too much, too soon.
In passing a thick, detail-heavy agenda bill on Wednesday evening, May 21, the council created the new NGO and added it to similarly constructed NGOs in tourism (Mammoth Lakes Tourism), transit (the Eastern Sierra Transit Authority) and housing (Mammoth Lakes Housing).
On Monday, May 19, the eight-member Mammoth Lakes Recreation Formation Committee added some last-minute edits to the legislation then adjourned, its work completed, pending the council’s scheduled vote.
Opposition to the action came from a number of directions, not the least of whom was Town Council candidate Karen Sibert.
“I have grave concerns about the way in which Mammoth Lakes Recreation (MLR) is being moved along,” she wrote in a letter to the council dated May 21.
“I do not believe there has been sufficient community engagement with this important decision. Thus, the voters are greatly uninformed on the fate of their public monies.
“I do not believe using these monies to fund MLR is consistent with the voters’ intentions.”
Colin Fernie, also a candidate for Town Council and a member of the MLR Formation Committee, dismissed Sibert’s concerns in an interview before the council meeting.
“I don’t agree with the argument that this has been rushed through and crammed down people’s throats,” he said.
“I personally have been working on this for 11 months. If we as a community cannot make decisions in 12 months, we’re in trouble.
“It’s been a very public process and people feel like it’s being crammed down their throats only because they’ve gotten into it so late in the game.”
The formation committee, which began its work by way of a council directive on May 1, 2013, on Wednesday handed up a multi-tiered agenda bill that was highlighted by eight major points.
First among the items up for a vote was the proposal to continue the suspension of the Measure R and Measure U allocation process.
Second, the council was to vote on beginning the transition of duties previously handled by the Mammoth Lakes Trails System Coordinating Committee to the MLR.
The vote also was to begin the transition of the Measure U Application Committee functions to MLR, and to guide the current Recreation Commission in re-defining its roles and responsibilities.
The Council also was prepared to vote on amending the Measure R expenditure plan, designating MLR as the recommending body for all Measure R funding other than town and MLR contracts.
In addition, the council was asked to vote on designating MLR as the recommending body for all Measure U funds, and to reconcile current maintenance obligations and funding awards for both Measures R and U.
The extensive package before the council was available to the public for review on the town’s website.
Under the proposal, the Board of Directors of MLR would consist of nine directors.
Of these, seven would be considered at-large positions representing recreation interests encompassing seven core strategies. One member would be an appointed representative of the Town Council, and another would represent the Recreation Commission.
Before the Board of Directors comes into being, the council also voted in forming a transition board consisting of current MLR Formation Committee members John Armstrong (Eastside Velo), Jo Bacon (Town Council), Teri Stehlik (Recreation Commission), Danna Stroud (Eastern Sierra Interpretive Society), Betsy Truax (Recreation Commission), Rick Wood (outgoing Council Member) and Mammoth Lakes Tourism executive director John Urdi.
Fernie, should he win in the June 3 election, would probably not continue with the transition board, according to the agenda bill.
MLR would begin with two staff persons—an executive director, and a recreation/trails coordinator.
After that, MLR would nail down its short-range and long-range plans.
Until then, though, the council would be largely out of the picture, having completed what Wood said was his intent from the beginning.
“We need to take the politics out of recreation,” he said at the beginning of the process last year.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story appeared in the print version of the Mammoth Times on Thursday, May 22.