Ronald Smith has received his paperwork from Governor Chris Christie which appoints him as chairman to the Lake Hopatcong Commission (LHC) until May 14, 2019. Upon this announcement, Smith stated that he hopes the rest of the commission will be patient as he comes up to speed with issues but he is “happy to learn the feelings and opinions of everyone.” The letter from the Governor stated that part of this position is to “improve the quality of life in the state.” Acting chairman Daniel McCarthy stated that there is still one vacant seat on the commission which will hopefully be filled promptly.
McCarthy gave his last report as acting chairman and included a special thanks to the budget committee for “never giving up.” He especially was thankful for the work of Robert Tesslier and his commitment to the budget issues.
The budget received from the state for the LHC to use this year is $105,000. McCarthy stated that they “need more than this amount in order to be effective” but this money will go to good use. He stated that this is the first budget by the state that the LHC has been included in. The budget proposal for next year is due in November and is currently being worked on.
The LHC expressed concerns about the usage of the budget money and stated that next year’s amount should be “spent more frugally.” It was stated that the money was used quickly and could be used more effectively. McCarthy disagreed with this point and stated that “the economy was different” and he did not “believe the money was wasted.” One citizen in the audience turned around during this discussion and muttered that the LHC was “using money before they even had it.”
Smith spoke briefly about the Memorandum of Agreement which was between Hopatcong, Mt. Arlington, Jefferson Township, Roxbury, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and would provide the weed harvesting program with an additional $200,000 per year from the NJDEP. This conversation confirmed that all the towns that have yet to sign the agreement were still in the process of making decisions. McCarthy spoke up during this conversation and stated that the LHC “knew nothing” about the memorandum and considering the knowledge they have on the topic, should have a seat during discussions concerning this issue. He immediately felt the need to be involved in this process once he read the first draft of the memorandum and noticed some mistakes.
In previous years, the LHC has been low on state funding but during this past month they stated that there has been a large change. The state is becoming more involved in this commission, which in turn allows the commission to become better involved in town affairs.
An issue of attendance was brought up at this meeting as one member noticed that David Jarvis has not attended a meeting since last October. This member stated that the commission positions should be taken more seriously as the job itself comes with a level of responsibility which needs to be respected. Chairman Smith stated that he would check in on Jarvis’ whereabouts.
The water level of the lake was reported as “normal and consistently monitored.” The Citizens Advisory Committee will be meeting in early fall to review the Lake Level Management Plan which is normally reviewed yearly. This plan addresses the two issues which interest the public most: weed harvesting and water level.
Seven seasonal workers were hired this summer for the weed harvesting process. Two trailers were overhauled and a pressure washer was purchased for use in the fall with the money allotted for this task. Harvesters will focus on the shorelines included in Phase One and Phase Two will begin on July 24th and last until August when Phase Three will begin. 454 yards have been harvested so far and the total limit is 800 yards. The remaining weeds after this limit is reached will be dried and deposited at a location which is still in discussion.
The “Lake Hopatcong for All” guidelines for voting are being changed. Byram Cove had problems in the past but is steadily improving due to this set of guidelines. The recent warm weather has motivated many people to anchor their boats in Lake Hopatcong and more popularity is noticed widespread within every cove.
Members of the LHC met with the current owner of lakehopatcong.com and spoke with him about his ideas for the future of the website. The owner stated that he plans to make the website appear more current and also to make it more user-friendly. Currently the price for the website domain name is $10 a year and $100 a year is needed to run the website. The owner suggested that the LHC should take control of the names lakehopatcong.org and lakehopatcongcommission.com.
The mailing address of the LHC is currently 1033 Weldon Road, yet the members wish to make this mailing address more permanent and consistent. They discussed possibly purchasing a PO box and also renting a part time office. The LHC previously put in a request to use a state office which was rejected at this current time. A secretary may be hired to work for the LHC. This is an important issue as McCarthy stated that there must be consistency to the mail so that the LHC knows for sure that they are receiving all of the mail.
The Lake Hopatcong Foundation has been paying the costs for lake monitoring reports ($16,350) since the LHC has been low on funding. Now that the LHC has received a budget they will pick up this cost and also reimburse the foundation.
There are currently elevated phosphorus levels in certain areas of the lake, including those in Byram Cove and coves in Jefferson Township. Grants are needed to address these issues properly as these levels allow algae to bloom.
There is a Lake Hopatcong Symposium meeting on August 3 at the Jefferson House, where senators and assemblymen were invited. This is a space where individuals will discuss issues and hopefully find common ground on the issues.