Whitmore Pool moves closer to bailout and rescue

Whitmore Pool, scheduled to close next summer because of austerity cuts by the Town of Mammoth Lakes, may yet stay open.

The town’s recreation commission, to meet at 2 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 26, will consider moving $185,000 in Measure R tax funds to save the pool from going under.

The proposed bailout is part of a broader consideration of which projects are to receive funding in the latest round of Measure R requests, from cross-country ski trail grooming to rehabilitating the community tennis courts.

The town has $330,000 for such funding overall, but the eight projects are asking for a combined $670,431—a serious gap of nearly $350,000.

Funding to save the pool has been the most controversial, as both the Recreation Commission and Town Council try to find a way around language in Measure R regulations that indicate the tax funds cannot be used to “supplant” existing recreation facilities.

At a Town Council meeting on Nov. 13, Mayor Matthew Lehman argued that the town’s fiscal cliff scenario superseded strict interpretation of the “supplanting” language.

Even given the momentum behind saving the Whitmore Pool, the rescue is not a done deal.

First, the Recreation Commission must pass the proposal. After that, the council will either accept or reject the proposal at its Dec. 5 watershed meeting, during which the entire town restructuring measures will come up for a vote.

The council’s austerity package is meant to create $2 million in the short term for its first payment on the town’s settlement agreement with Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition.

The settlement calls for a $2 million first payment on Jan. 1, then a $2 million-a-year annual payment on the $29.5 million, 23-year deal. The next payment is due at the start of the 2013-14 fiscal year, beginning next July 1.

The issue at hand, though, is Whitmore Pool, and it carries some urgency.

With no general funds available for the pool in the town’s lean larder, the council must either pass the Measure R request to keep the pool open, or vote against it, in effect closing the pool.

Of the $185,000, the bulk of it—$117,000—would go for two years’ worth of operations and maintenance. Another $60,000 would be set aside for parks personnel to direct its upkeep, with the leftover cash set aside for emergency reserves.

At risk are the other proposals in the Measure R funds requests.

The town has requested $91,930 for trail grant matches; the new Mammoth Track has requested $250,000 for the “finish” work it requires, plus an additional $3,000 for track equipment; Mammoth Nordic has requested $66,400 for winter trail grooming; the town has requested $60,000 for enhancements to its ice/roller rink (the so-called “multi-use facility”), along with $16,101 for enhancements for special events. Finally, the town has requested $7,000 for rehabilitation work at the community tennis courts.

That leaves a gap of $349,431, with which the commission will grapple at its meeting, in Suite Z above the Minaret Cinemas.