November 19, 2018

Pull it or leave it

Comins Twp. residents embark on special district discussion

Posted

COMINS TWP. — Two township-wide meetings were held last week to discuss whether the proposed special assessment district aimed at clearing an invasive species from Perry Lake should be enacted.

The discussion centered around the lakes eurasian milfoil infestation. It is a long, spindly lake weed that grows exponentially due to a lack of organisms that eat it in the area. There are many ways it could have been transmitted to the lake, but many at the meeting are under the impression it was brought in by someone who did not properly clean their boat before putting it into the water. After a study performed by Restorative Lake Sciences it was found there was roughly 3-3.5 acres of the plant currently in the lake.

Township trustee Rob Murphy stepped in for supervisor Warren Miller to lead the discussion throughout the evening of the first meeting Tuesday Oct. 23. Dr. Jennifer Jones of Restorative Lake Sciences was also present at the meeting to help explain why she believes it is important to rid the lake of milfoil. She is an expert when it comes to aquatic invasive plants, such as the one infesting Perry Lake.

Throughout the meeting Jones was asked whether or not the milfoil is actually capable of destroying the ecosystem of the lake. She said as Perry Lake is a prime habitat for the plant, it is a possibility. She said in the past she has seen lakes that within 2-3 years can become 70 percent covered by the invasive plant. She said without a doubt milfoil always becomes a problem.

Murphy repeatedly posed a question to everyone in attendance throughout the discussion; Is the lake important enough to those who live on it to take action against the milfoil?

“We have a comprehensive test that shows, I believe, that we have a pretty healthy lake,” Murphy said. “Now, do we want to be the proactive ones who get ahead of this, or not.”

At the meeting it seemed as though there was a rift between the Perry Lake Property Owners Association and a group of residents who are unconvinced the current plan would permanently fix the lake. Those residents were unenthused about being forced to pay into a tax for a plan they are not confident would work.

James Lindblom is one of the residents who is unconvinced the proposed plan would work.

“The way you’ve got this designed, it is going to be a burden on a lot of people,” Lindblom said.

If the special district were to pass it would place a tax on Perry Lake residents that would cost hundreds of dollars per year, for the next six years. The total amount of money raised would be upwards of $120,000.

Association President Sue Lethley said she thinks the cost on residents would be worth cleaning up the lake. She said she believes the cost is low enough that it would not be a significant burden on any of the residents. Lindblom responded, saying he knows of multiple residents of the lake who are living on fixed incomes, and it would hurt their financial stability. Lake resident Norma Lyden said she is unhappy about the amount of money she would be responsible to pay.

“I don’t have an issue with cleaning the lake,” she said. “I have an issue with how, as a back lot owner, I am only paying $60 less than someone who lives on the lake.”

The length of time the tax would be levied was also a hot topic of discussion. Murphy and others wanted to know why six years was chosen as the length of the project. Jones mentioned that if all goes according to plan there would be a reduction of roughly one-acre of milfoil per year. That would lead to a lake free of the invasive plant in 3-3.5 years. She said the following years after cleanup is complete would be to monitor the lake and ensure it is not seeing a resurgence of the plant. While it is not imperative to annually monitor the lake after cleanup is complete, Jones said it would be safer to do so as the seeds of milfoil can lay dormant for up to 20 years and still be viable for re-growth.

Resident Steve Layman wondered what would happen to all of the extra money raised if the eradication were to be complete before the special district has run its course. Jones said the money is able to be returned to residents if the job is completed early.

Another issue raised was the fact that the lake is open to the public. Some residents questioned if this could end up being a never-ending battle. Not only against the milfoil already present, but any that could be brought to it down the line from those who inadequately clean their boats before putting them in the water. Some proposed closing off the lake to public access, others wondered if there were ways to monetize access to the lake to help offset the cleanup costs on residents. There was also a suggestion to have the township impose an ordinance on the entire township to help clean up the lake.

“This is a public lake, it is used by many, many people all the time,” Lindblom said. “Let it be a public lake. If the DNR or someone else wants to clean it up, let them. We shouldn’t be footing the bill here.”

Murphy said while enacting a township wide ordinance could be a possibility, residents of the lake would have to be accepting of increased traffic and publicization of the lake if that were to happen.

This is not the first attempt the lake association has made at cleaning the invasive species. Some of those against the special district questioned how this attempt would be any different from previous ones. Association members said what sets this apart is the amount of money available that would allow for professional divers to do the work. Association member Roger Kowalk said he thinks this could be the answer to the problem, but residents have to be willing to try.

“The big complaint is that we didn’t get enough done over the last three years,” he said. “Now we have a solution, but no one wants to pay for it.”

Murphy said while the associations plan may work, residents need to be open to compromise in order to find the best possible choice for everyone.

“We only have one bid, from one company,” he said. “We owe it to the township to do the most cost-effective thing, not just the thing that is right in front of us.”

Although the discussion became heated at points Murphy said he believes the two sides became slightly more accepting of each others viewpoints by the end of the evening. He said if residents continue to do so throughout future discussions a compromise should not be impossible to come to. Murphy said this is just the beginning of a long discussion, and he is not interested in rushing to a decision.

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