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Mono, Mammoth divide the money pie

February 6, 2014

Both Mono County and the Town of Mammoth Lakes began their annual handouts to warm-weather events producers this past week, with some clear-cut winners and losers emerging from the process.

The Mono County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Feb. 4, made its final choices on $60,000 in event funding, while on Wednesday, Feb. 5, the Mammoth Lakes Town Council were to make a final decision as to how to split $181,300 in Measure U tax funding.

When the cash giveaway settled, the two governments were posed to make 34 separate tax subsidies totaling $241,300, counting both the town and county, pending the council’s final vote on Wednesday night.

The funding process did not go without some controversy, however.

Supervisor Larry Johnston, speaking from the dais on Tuesday afternoon, harshly criticized his fellow board members for short-changing Chamber Music Unbound, the education and performing arts organization that provides classical music education throughout the county.

“To me, this is an unconscionable decision,” he said. Johnston was the lone supervisor to vote against the funding package.

Meanwhile, Supervisor Tim Fesko, from North County, cautioned the board and events producers to not expect funding year after year, explaining that such funding is meant to help events get off the ground and not be an underpinning annual expense.

Among the big winners was the Mammoth Food and Wine Experience, which tapped the county government for $4,000 and which also was set to receive $24,000 in Measure U funding, pending the council action.

The event, scheduled for July 11-13, has a total budget of $175,025, according to its Measure U application.

The Food & Wine Experience producers asked the town for $28,000 in its original application.

Also coming up big, for the second straight year, was the Kamikaze Bike Games, a five-day event introduced last September that combines downhill mountain bike racing with the Fall Century/Gran Fondo, a 100-mile road ride.

The Kamikaze Games, whose proceeds go to the Mammoth Mountain Community Foundation, asked for $50,000 in Measure U funding for the 2014 event, and came away with $30,000 to help allay costs of a budgeted $300,000.

Notably absent from the funding requests was the Town of Mammoth Lakes Town Council, which vociferously complained last month that the Board of Supervisors refused to help fund the Fourth of July Fireworks Show at Crowley Lake.

However, the council did not even apply for additional funding from the $60,000 in the county’s portion of the pie, even though practically everyone in both governments agree the Crowley Lake show is a countywide event.

Other events, however, were to receive all of the money they requested.

For example, the Measure U Committee recommended to the town Council that the Mammoth Lakes Jazz Jubilee get its full request of $24,995, although the Jazz Jubilee Jazz Camp, which put in a request for $5,000 in county funds, ended up with just $1,500.

Chamber Music Unbound, which produces the Mammoth Lakes Music Festival, received $12,000 in Measure U funding, almost reaching its request of $12,500.

Others receiving their requested amounts were the Mammoth Rocks Festival, to the tune of $12,000, and the Kids’ Fly Fishing Festival, which hooked $2,500 from the town and $2,000 from the county.

The tax handouts, $241,300 counting both the town and county, completed the distribution season, which began with the town doling out Measure R money for use in solely recreational events and/or activities.

Measure U funding, however, speaks to performing arts and transit, in addition to recreation spending.

Voters in Mammoth approved both Measures R and U.

The county, with no such tax mandate, has a different process.

In Bridgeport, the supervisors created a $60,000 fund for events, but last year split the process, giving the Mono County Tourism and Film Commission $20,000 to divide among producers whose events would bring visitors into the county.

The remaining $40,000 in the county budget was to go for more homegrown events and programs, with the emphasis on helping programs for kids.

At the county level, the board on Tuesday afternoon divvied up its remaining $40,000 in funds—which each supervisor said was a tough task, given there were $69,714 in requests.

In Mammoth, however, the Town Council on Wednesday considered, as was expected to pass, a $300,000 designation of Measure U funds to a capital reserve account that may not be allocated for any purpose without having any request received by and recommendations made by the Measure U process and specific action of the council.

There were other notable absentees from the funding process.

The Mammoth Half Marathon, which arguably begins the events season in the town, for the second straight year declined to apply for tax funds and will remain a self-supporting event.

The Jazz Jubilee, which in years past has sought county funding, also did not make a request from Bridgeport, nor did the June Lake Loop Music Festival, The Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center, or the new Sierra Bounty Produce Collective.

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