A Memorandum of Agreement will give the Lake Hopatcong weed harvesting program an additional $200,000 per year from the NJDEP, more than doubling the amount they currently have to a total of $355,000 per year. The memorandum is in the process of being ratified between the townships of Hopatcong, Mt. Arlington, Jefferson Township, Roxbury, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Jefferson Township is one of the first to sign the agreement, and the other towns are expected to sign it within the next week.

Despite this being accompanied by the state raising its wages for part time weed harvesters, the Lake Hopatcong community is still struggling to find workers.

Besides the increase in funding, the Memorandum of Agreement sets a timetable for the weed harvesting and updates storm water safety guidelines that will be required by every town within the next few years anyway. The money will not only be used to improve weed harvesting methods and the areas that will be serviced, but it will improve the training for the weed harvesters as well.

Mayor Russell Felter commented that the “taxes are getting ridiculous and the weeds are getting worse. Even if there are new guidelines we have to agree to, we have to accept the money from the state for weed harvesting, or else it will get worse.” The weed harvesters will be in the Jefferson Township area within the next few weeks.

Another highly discussed issue at the Town Council meeting was the issue over the tax exempt policies for disabled veterans. The current policy is that disabled veterans who filed for tax exemption will be refunded for upwards of a year prior to when they filed their paperwork to the town or up until the effective date they were recognized to be 100 percent disabled if this was under a year before they filed the paperwork to the town.

However, the town is financially struggling with the budget and sees this as a potential option to save money. Felter believes that the town prides itself on the way it treats its veterans and thinks that they should keep the current policy.

On the other hand, two veterans on the Council, Vice President Jay Dunham and Councilman H. Ronald Smith, argued that the budget is perpetually getting smaller, and the Council is not just taking it out on the veterans, but they need to find ways to save money. They understand that the Veterans Administrations takes a long time to file paperwork and they empathize with veterans who have to wait, but they believe that the benefits should only start when the paperwork is filed to the town.

Councilman Robert Birmingham thought there could possibly be two tiers for this tax exemption, varying based on when the veteran was disabled. Lawrence Cohen said that this was a possibility and he would look into it.

The Council took some measures to improve the town’s economic growth as well. They not only renewed liquor licenses in the town but granted a liquor license to a new facility as well. Debi Merz saw this as a good way to continue economic growth in the town. Additionally, the Council is looking into purchasing the White Rock Lakes Association property. If they purchase it, they would have the Parks and Recreation Department develop a plan to maintain the property and restore it to its former glory.

The Council gave out a Proclamation of Tourette Syndrome Awareness. This disorder, which is normally associated with twitching, is found in one in every hundred people. Although there are no cures for it, there are treatments to help those who have it. The proclamation was given in order to promote understanding and sympathy for those who have TS. The honoree, Kylie, a Jefferson Township middle schooler who has TS, said, “I have tried my hardest to deal with Tourette, and although I occasionally have times when I have trouble with coping with this disorder, I can look to my family and friends to support me.”

The second proclamation was given out to Nicholas G. Smileus for receiving the rank of Eagle Scout. For his project, he painted the Jefferson Township Middle School library from neon green to blue and gold, the school colors. It took nine days and many hours to complete the project, which required him and his workers to remove the books from the shelves, move the shelves, paint the walls, and move everything back to its original position.

Weed harvesting equipment arriving to Lake Hopatcong on June 15, 2017. (Photo: Marty Kane/Facebook group, “Lake Hopatcong: Citizens for Action”)

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