The Inyo Board of Supervisors was the first of four entities to vote on the Joint Powers Authority that would elevate the status of the Eastern Sierra Council of Governments.
The Board approved the move with a rare 3-2 split following a discussion focusing on another “layer of government.”
The switch to an Authority resulted from a $618,000 Sierra Nevada Conservancy grant funding of the Eastern Sierra Sustainable Recreation Project. The funding was secured by John Wentworth on behalf of ESCOG but had to be housed with the Town of Mammoth Lakes since the council had no mechanism to handle the funds.
The solution: define ESCOG as a JPA with all the powers that entails. Simple? Not really.
Both Supervisors Rick Pucci and Matt Kingsley had nothing but good things to say about ESCOG and the work it has undertaken. They just didn’t like the idea of another “layer of government.”
One of Inyo’s reps on ESCOG, Jeff Griffiths explained there were built in safe guards for the four entities but couldn’t say what the newly empowered ESCOG would do first. “We need approval first,” he said. “We tried to address everybody’s concerns. I think we have.
The other ESCOG representative, Dan Totheroh, went one step further. “We need the right balance. There is funding not available to the separate entities.”
County Counsel Marshall Rudolph pointed out the safeguards. Specifically, ESCOG couldn’t go forward without approval of at least one member of each of the four entities. But the discussion went on.
Supervisor Mark Tillemans broke the tie—with Kingsley and Pucci voting no, Totheroh and Griffiths voting yes. After a dramatic pause, Tillemans voted yes on the JPA.