Actual Costs of Harvesting Higher Than Expected

Josh Osowski, superintendent of the northern region of the State Park Service and Department of Environmental Protection representative to the commission, presented a draft budget for weed harvesting to the Lake Hopatcong Commission at its meeting on Monday, May 14.

Josh Osowski reports on the weed harvesting budget. (Photo: Jane Primerano)

The budget is intended to support the harvesting program from July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019 (the state fiscal year). Commission members were surprised that the total was more than $100,000 higher than anticipated.

Personnel costs for a year’s harvesting come to $314,734. Of this, $185,000 supports the salaries and ancillary costs of the two full-time employees and $120,000 supports the seven seasonal/hourly employees. The remainder is classified as “indirect personnel costs.” With an estimated $100,000 in maintenance, the total budget is $414,734 – within the state’s allocation of $500,000, but higher than expected.

Osowski noted that in past years, the state covered benefits for the employees from a different account, without billing the commission. In his view, the only way to lower the budget is to employ fewer people or defer maintenance on the harvesters.

There may also be a $15,000 expense for weed disposal (if a free disposal site cannot be found, as in the past) and $2,000 in miscellaneous costs.

Commissioner Joel Servoss said disposal of the weeds may not cost anything. Osowski observed that they can compost the weeds, although not forever. “That won’t break the bank,” he added.

Commission chair Ronald Smith said they had wanted to get the second small harvester on the water. Vice chair Dan McCarthy noted that the harvester is in bad shape after hitting a lot of rocks when it was used by Lake Musconetcong. However, Lake Musconetcong Planning Board chair Earl Riley disputed that claim, saying it was not damaged.

Smith stated that the commission may have to seek other sources of funding. He will approach Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-25), who has been a great friend of the lake.

Hopatcong State Park superintendent Melissa Castellon reported that training of the new seasonal employees has started and harvesting should be under way soon. One large and one small harvester will be berthed at the park. One large harvester, the short conveyor, and two dump trucks will be at Lee’s County Park. Two large harvesters will be at Ashley Cove and Woodport. She said the crew is very familiar with Crescent Cove and Woodport issues.

Al Riha of Crescent Cove asked why one of the harvesters could not be berthed there, noting that there is a state-owned fire lane off West River Styx Road. Marty Kane of the Lake Hopatcong Foundation said that Hopatcong Borough sold most of its fire lanes. According to Castellon, the state park wants to stage the harvesters where they are visible and have easy access to the dump.

Castellon said Fridays will be focused on “floaters” – the weeds that remain on the surface of the lake. They will be pulled out of the water each week.

Weeds are not the only thing being pulled out of the lake. Commissioner Fred Steinbaum pointed out that the lake should have a local collection area for boards and other floating debris. Lee’s County Park has a bin for blister packs, but commissioners were concerned that any specified garbage or recycling containers would have to be monitored to avoid illegal dumping. The state park has a carry-in/carry-out policy.

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