By Deb Murphy

The Joint Powers Authority establishing the Eastern Sierra Council of Governments as a legal entity got its first test at Monday’s Bishop City Council meeting. The document was approved, with a significant change requested by Councilmember Stephen Muchovej.

With its new status, ESCOG will require funding for administrative staff and other services. Staff costs money and up until now those services have been rotated among the four entities: Mono and Inyo counties, Mammoth Lakes and Bishop. That estimated cost for the first year, per entity, is $16,500. According to ESCOG’s staff report, that cost could reach $20,000 to $35,000 per agency as the workload expands.

“I’m not sure allocating $20,000 to $35,000 a year to operate is the best thing for Bishop,” Muchovej said. “Bishop’s budget is 12-percent of Mammoth Lakes and Inyo County.”

Muchovej wasn’t too keen on the vagueness of the new Authority’s game plan either.

Bishop’s ESCOG rep, Karen Schwartz, and Inyo County rep Jeff Griffiths explained the vagueness was intentional. “We’re dealing with current issues now,” Griffiths said. “We don’t know what those issues will be 10 to 15 years down the road.”

Griffiths also pointed out future grants could cover some of the administrative costs.

The one certainty is ESCOG will be dealing with regional issues. Mammoth Lakes Councilmember John Wentworth provided the example of ESCOG’s grant application for Proposition 68, the parks, environment and bond, submitted by Mammoth Lakes on behalf of ESCOG.

Another example was air service. ESCOG formed an air service sub-committee that smoothed the way for a regional acceptance of commercial air service in Bishop.

Muchovej asked for one addition to the JPA document: that one member from each entity be present to vote on ESCOG decisions. Each of the four government agencies has two representatives on ESCOG. At the June meeting, neither of the Bishop representatives was present.

The Council approved the JPA with that caveat. The document still has to go through Mammoth Lakes Town Council and both county Boards of Supervisors. The next ESCOG meeting will be held in the Bishop City Council chambers, Friday, August 9 at 8:30 a.m.

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