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If there is a model for an even-tempered civil servant, it might be Mammoth Town Manager Dave Wilbrecht.
But near the end of last weekâ€™s Town Council meeting, the normally unflappable Wilbrecht just about came unglued over the issue of a possible closure of Whitmore Park and its centerpiece, the Whitmore Pool.
In all, the proposed reduction would total $57,416 in the 2012-13 fiscal year, and $177,764 in 2013-14.
But to keep Whitmore Pool open by using Measure R funds, Wilbrecht said, was mere â€śpocket changeâ€ť when stacked up against the amount of voter-approved recreation tax money the council has approved in the Inyo National Forest.
â€śIf Whitmore Park and Pool were on forest land, and it was called a trail, youâ€™d be funding it,â€ť he said in his pointed remarks. â€śWeâ€™ve spent more than a million dollars in the Forest since Measure R has been approved, on lands that we donâ€™t own and we donâ€™t control.
â€śWe freely spend money in the Forest that is managed by some other entity.
â€śSo in my mind, we own the land (at Whitmore Park)â€”or we have the landâ€”and I donâ€™t see the supplanting in the same sense, because weâ€™re supplanting the federal government.â€ťWilbrecht, who chairs the Mammoth Lakes Trails Coordinating Committee, appeared to have caught the council off-guard, since there was no counter-argument from the dais.
For the council, as well as other members of the town government, including the recreation commission, the idea of â€śsupplantingâ€ť existing recreation infrastructure by using Measure R funds has been sacrosanct.
Over the years, and particularly since the announcement of the settlement agreement with Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition (MLLA) and the so-called Ballas Entities, the very definition of â€śsupplantingâ€ť has been at the center of the Whitmore debate.
Under the current proposals for a restructuring of town finances, the park (which includes the ball fields) and the pool have been on the hit list. The argument for the cuts is that Measure R funds cannot be used to â€śsupplantâ€ť an existing facility.
Wilbrecht called that into question in something short of a rant, but well past a non-judgmental analysis.
â€śI was your old Parks and Rec director back in 2000, and so I have affinities and a lot of strong feelings about it.
â€śIn my mind, weâ€™re supplanting now, and if thatâ€™s the rule, weâ€™re spending money on existing infrastructure.
â€śMiles of trails is part of our trails system plan, so itâ€™s all built. Itâ€™s there. We spend money, and we spent a million dollars in planning money without really turning dirt in the past three years.
â€śSo for us to spend $168,000 or $200,000 or whatever it might be, to me, that was kind of pocket change relative to the idea that if it were on forest land and it was called a trail.
â€śWe just spent $300,000 today where you (the council) approved a list of projects for $300,000 on federal land and because our trail system is part of that system.
â€śWhy not spend money on town stuff? Thatâ€™s a kind of personal deal. I think itâ€™s a paradigm that weâ€™ve created for ourselves.â€ť
After the meeting, Wilbrecht drew a sharp rebuke from John Wentworth, the executive director of the currently cash-strapped Mammoth Trails and Public Access Foundation (MLTPA).
MLTPA has pushed for top-of-the-line wayfinding systems (much of which is now in place), and for volunteer efforts in trails maintenance. It also successfully pushed for an up-to-date web-based trails system, also now in place.