Town Council passes restructuring, puts onus on police

For two months, they had talked about elimination of seven police officers, but last night three Mammoth Town Councilmen said they really meant a cut in the police budget – a $1.1 million cut.

After more than three hours of talk Wednesday night, the Mammoth Lakes Town Council did approve their government restructuring plan which calls for elimination of positions from town government – including seven police officers as stated in the plan – keeps Whitmore Pool open, backs off from outsourcing IT services, and restores some night time transit service. The plan does not raise taxes or transfer revenue from already approved taxes.

Councilmen Rick Wood, John Eastman and Mayor Matthew Lehman backed off of the position that they specifically wanted to cut seven police positions even though they’ve said that was their proposal for the last two months.

In what appeared to be a way to shift the blame to the police themselves,  Eastman said, “We’re not necessarily asking to reduce seven officers.”  He said $1.1 million needs to be cut from the department somehow.  Mayor Lehman agreed.  He said, “Departments have to come up with the solutions.”

Wood said, “My view is that we are providing funding to a department and charging the department to come up with a different, not a lower, level of service.  Peoples’ views are if the organization is not the same, it will suffer in some calamitous way.  It’s a budget discussion.” Wood said the average police officer costs the Town $192,000.  He said he didn’t begrudge the cost.  Wood said, “The Town can’t afford it.”

Until last night, council members and management stated plainly that the proposal was to cut seven police officers. Their re-structuring plan still says that but also asks the Police Officers Association to “help maintain the existing level of service by reducing the per-officer cost for officers, including salaries, retirement, medical and other benefits.” That would amount to roughly a $65,000 per officer cut to make up $1.1 million.

Community criticism has hit the Council and staff over the police issue.  The Town’s own survey indicated some 65% of those questioned did not support police cuts.

Wednesday night, Fire Chief Brent Harper was one of those.  He made it clear he and his department oppose the “big law enforcement cuts.”  He pointed out that the schedule proposed would mean no police from 3am to 7am.  Chief Harper said when paramedics and firefighters have to respond to calls all night long, they will have no law enforcement back-up.  He called for 24-hour coverage.

Rich McAteer, retired School Superintendent and citizen, opposed the police reduction.  Said McAteer, “Your function is to provide public safety.  I realize your budget is unsustainable, but I disagree with slashing the police department.”

On other issues, Bill Cockroft of Mammoth Mountain told the Council that cuts in transit would mean no night bus service during important holidays and week-ends.  Ultimately, the Council decided to use $25,000 set aside to train volunteers for transit instead and look for a way to pay that back later.

The Council debated the transient occupancy tax increase estimate in the plan which is 14%.  Council member Jo Bacon said previous assumptions were more like 5%.  Marysheva-Martinez said this was not a conservative revenue estimate but that the staff “feels comfortable with it.”  Mayor Lehman agreed with Bacon.  In fact, through the evening, the Mayor objected to shifting money around and not facing the need to pay as you go with conservative revenue projections.

Lehman favored temporary use of Measure R money to keep Whitmore Pool open, but in the end they all spent around $90,000 of road maintenance money for this year to keep Whitmore open. They’ll re-consider the future of the facility in a few months.

Councilman John Eastman once more blamed the courts for the decision that forced the Town to pay off the big lawsuit debt.  He said that’s why “the Town Council has no choice but to make cuts.”  He said a new tax or new revenue would be the only other option.

Rick Wood said he would not sponsor a new tax.  He said the community could bring tax proposals forward, but this would not be considered at the meeting. Jo Bacon agreed.  All five voted in favor of the restructuring plan.

More meetings lie ahead on what officials call alternative service delivery models.  Outsourcing is one of those alternatives. The meetings start January 2nd.

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MJA
MJA
9 years ago

The solution won’t be found in name calling and blame but rather in finding a way to pay the bills. And it will also not be found in a payment plan to Ballas that is not feasible. The payment plan of 2 million a year for 25 years is not… Read more »

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago
Reply to  MJA

I agree MJA … but the powers to be don’t see it that way, I always said, the dude should have just got his investment, at the most, no more!

Officials no longer represent constituents
Officials no longer represent constituents
9 years ago

Elected officials no longer represent their constituents. Behind closed doors, local officials are willing to trade their official influence for cold hard cash. Local officials, with impunity, try to find jobs for their relatives. Elected officials often take money in return for helping to win county or town contracts or… Read more »

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
9 years ago

Do you have proof that local officials have taken bribes? Would like to know.
Otherwise, it’s just speculation.
Benett Kessler

Local officials taking bribes
Local officials taking bribes
9 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler
Types of corruption
Types of corruption
9 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

Favoring relatives (nepotism) or personal friends (cronyism) of an official is a form of illegitimate private gain. This may be combined with bribery, for example demanding that a business should employ a relative of an official controlling regulations affecting the business. John Eastman tried in vain to create a job… Read more »

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
9 years ago

We brought the situation to light, interviewed Mr. Eastman and Marysheva-Martinez and Bill Manning. We reported the issue.
You seemed to say you knew about specific briberies, etc.
BK

Why not a thorough investigation?
Why not a thorough investigation?
9 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

With so many unanswered questions, behind-closed-doors meetings, jobs being lost or threatened, lives ruined, etc., perhaps a thorough investigation with sworn testimonies is in order. Nobody is ever going to admit they had their palm greased in someway or another on this airport thing. This is not the first time… Read more »

Types of corruption
Types of corruption
9 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

Nepotism and cronyism occurs when elected officials appoint high-ranking managers without the benefit of a specific, lengthy job search.
Have long-timers Eastman, Wood and other councilmen ever done that?
If so, that is clearly corruption and a recall should take place.

A corrupt system
A corrupt system
9 years ago

Does the “industry average” of town councilmen using their power and influence to hire relatives for the airport (Eastman)? Who knows what behind the scenes deals were made for other “projects” (airport). Until it is 100% against the law to accept one thin dime from any outside source, favors, etc,.… Read more »

SkiJohn
SkiJohn
9 years ago

A Corrupt System, I completely agree with you in regards to Eastman and even Wood, but the others seem pretty innocent to me. Who really knows but from what I understand, Lehman is an appraiser who happens to own a plot of land somewhere – hardly a developer. The new… Read more »

Voluntarily reduce salaries
Voluntarily reduce salaries
9 years ago

Like the City of Bell, Mammoth Lakes Town Council and their highly paid managers should voluntarily reduce their pay and perks before the citizens will take them seriously when they say they are running a tight ship and watching the budget.

SkiJohn
SkiJohn
9 years ago

The City of Bell Town Council members paid themselves $200k+ year. Mammoth Town Council get paid $300 a month. You can’t even compare the 2. Would you do their job for $300 a month? As far as the managers go, isn’t that the going rate in other towns? I’m not… Read more »

Observer
Observer
9 years ago
Reply to  SkiJohn

Don’t forget that taxpayers provide full health, vision, and dental benefits to Councilmembers and dependents.

SkiJohn
SkiJohn
9 years ago
Reply to  Observer

Ok, so then we’re paying them $500 a month. Big deal. You want a 30 hour a week job for $500 a month? I sure don’t.

Observer
Observer
9 years ago
Reply to  SkiJohn

I’m not sure what planet you reside on but full health, dental, and vision benefits is more like $1,500 to $2,000 per month depending on how many dependents one has…

ferdinand lopez
ferdinand lopez
9 years ago

mammoth needs an enema

For the love of money
For the love of money
9 years ago

When the Town Manager was heading up Mono County, he talked his management team into a salary freeze in order to curb county expenses. Why the shift in philosophy, Town Manager? Why no reduction for town managers? There are other town managers in cash-strapped California who are volunteering to cut… Read more »

Just a matter of time
Just a matter of time
9 years ago

For love of money,
I’ve known Dave Wilbrecht for a number of years. I don’t think he would be the money-grubbing, it’s all about me, person you’ve painted him to be.
I think its just a matter of time before he announces a reduction of his and MMMs salaries.

Mike J
Mike J
9 years ago

Yeah right! They have both had years to give up some of their salary and/or benefits along with all the other employees. They have not and will not give up a penny of what they have. It’s easier to get it from the employee groups by lieing and intimidation.

observer
observer
9 years ago

Okay, but is that scenario really leadership? Leadership is being first out of the gate to reduce one’s salary to set an example for everyone to follow. Sort of seems too little, too late at this point. Tell all of that to the employees who have already sacrificed and given… Read more »

Frank
Frank
9 years ago

So when the snowboard punks pillage the Village, who ya gonna call? It’s gonna be an interesting winter.

Trouble
Trouble
9 years ago
Reply to  Frank

Barney Five could deal with those ” snowboard punks” you are in fear of. Mammoth has one of the lowest crime rates in the state. Zero murders, can’t get much lower. Putting a camera up at the entrance of Mammoth would prevent as many major crimes as a few extra… Read more »

Reality Check
Reality Check
9 years ago
Reply to  Trouble

Trouble, you really have no clue as to what you are talking about.

Trouble
Trouble
9 years ago
Reply to  Reality Check

Reality- I’m not sad our current police state menttality is no longer affordable, if that’s what you are suggesting.

Rob
Rob
9 years ago

I agree that $192,000 per officer is too expensive, but the council is absolutely full of it. Now they back away from the cutting 7 officers decision? Why have a council if they refuse to actually make decisions? This is pure cowardice and blame-shifting. In many other communities, the police… Read more »

Common Man
Common Man
9 years ago
Reply to  Rob

This $192,000 figure includes Vacation Time, Sick Time, average Overtime, Holiday Pay, Health Insurance, CalPers etc. With all publice employees, the Town incurs these costs, not just with cops. When someone takes vacation or sick time and no overtime is used to cover the shft, it costs the Town nothing.… Read more »

Rob
Rob
9 years ago
Reply to  Common Man

No doubt those expenses add up – and they are too much. Average benefits in the private sector are a much lower portion of total compensation. The point remains the same – Mammoth Lakes can’t afford $192,000 cops (that is how much the town actually pays), just like it can’t… Read more »

Comman Man
Comman Man
9 years ago
Reply to  Rob

Rob, that cost is standard throughout the state. To get quality personnel, Towns, City or Counties must compete with each other for the limited pool of available trained and qualified people. The reality is, very few people want to, or can become cops. It is close to 1/0th of 1%… Read more »

Tim
Tim
9 years ago
Reply to  Comman Man

One of the largest items is usually workers compensation. I know at one agency I worked at they went off of a figure that about 40% of the total cost of an officer was for workers comp. Also, remember that the numbers may include such things as needing x% of… Read more »

Comman Man
Comman Man
9 years ago
Reply to  Common Man

Great point Tim. I forgot about the cost of Workman’s Comp. Cops do get hurt a lot and are subject to things that most other workers are not.

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago

Sounds to me like .. they read this blog .. and they have heard comment on recalls and such .. some serious recall comment, made em set up and take notice. I think .. the citizens of Mammoth Lakes should recall them all just the same, don’t give em an… Read more »

SkiJohn
SkiJohn
9 years ago
Reply to  Big AL

Big Al, you honestly think they would care?? All but Eastman and Wood would be thrilled to get away from this mess. The rest don’t have mammoth egos like those two idiots who got us into this mess. Recall ’em all you want – no one wants that job. I… Read more »

happyholidays
happyholidays
9 years ago
Reply to  SkiJohn

There was little to find fault with regarding Skip Harvey while he was on TC….he was a good role model for anyone on TC, yet few, if any, follow his lead….he was humble…it’s as simply as that….but ego, pride, greed, power,… gets in the way of humility.

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago
Reply to  SkiJohn

You’re right SkiJohn, no matter who is in the job .. some people will find something to piss about. But .. yes I do think they care, when it will get too hot for them, it obviously shows, they have backed down on cutting jobs for now. Just remember ..… Read more »

Common Man
Common Man
9 years ago
Reply to  SkiJohn

I agree SkiJohn. It would be like applying for the job of Captain of the Titanic after it hit the iceberg.

Online petitions
Online petitions
9 years ago
Reply to  Big AL

There are websites like Change.org that show how to start online petitions.
Any takers?
Or is it just business (corrupt) as usual?

Chris
Chris
9 years ago

Doublespeak. The Budget Plan Has No Clothes!!

Eastern Sierra Local
Eastern Sierra Local
9 years ago

And John Eastman’s comment about “blaming the courts for putting Mammoth is this position (sic).” It wasn’t the courts who bound themsleves into a contract with MLLA; it wasn’t the court that didn’t fulfill it’s contractual obligations to MLLA.

happyholidays
happyholidays
9 years ago

It all started with the “WEB administration”: Woods/Eastman/Barrett…….arrogance, deceit, hikes, etc, etc, etc…..time for W and E to LEAVE!!!!! We miss Skip who spent all his energies to expose these individuals for who they really are! Mammoth deserves better!

Reality Check
Reality Check
9 years ago

If there was ever any doubt who or what Rick Wood is all about, that doubt has now been removed.

H
H
9 years ago

At last night’s meeting, Councilmember Wood stated that he does not want to be told what not to do by the community – rather – he encourages the community to offer up suggestions on “what to do”. My recommendation/suggestion Mr. Wood is that you resign your seat on the Council… Read more »

Where's the petition?
Where's the petition?
9 years ago

Oh, brother!
The two elected officials who were in power when the airport fiasco commenced, are the same two elected officials who are now saying: “blah, blah, blah, … what we MEANT to say was …blah, blah, blah.
Haven’t we had enough?

MJA
MJA
9 years ago

Police provide a essential service to the community,
Ballas and his MLLA provide nothing, not even a condo.
It is only obvious where the monetary cut should begin.
Time to get tough and do the right thing.

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