Town Board Reacts To State Of Burtis Bay

Ellicott Town Supervisor Patrick McLaughlin talks about measures to get a cleanup of Burtis Bay started. McLaughlin has been a proponent of consensus on Chautauqua Lake maintenance and has been outspoken for the residents who live near the large weed mass in the south basin. P-J photo by Eric Zavinski

FALCONER — The shadow of the Burtis Bay fish kill lingers in the form of a remaining weed mass. With a jar of lake sludge in hand, Celoron residents Mike and Peggy Newell continued to make their plight known to the Ellicott Town Board.

Monday’s town meeting was the stage for multiple lake matters. Town resident Karen Rine suggested some citizens might start raising donations for the town to spend on herbicide applications. Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello made a successful pitch for the Memorandum of Agreement for the Chautauqua Lake Weed Management Consensus Strategy.

Town residents and council members first mulled over the stagnant mass of weeds lying in Burtis Bay. Members of the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance performed a site review in March, and a plan of attack was proposed to coordinate resources with the Chautauqua Lake Association in order to clean up the stretch of weeds.

No official measures have yet been taken, with talks of not having the right equipment for the cleanup underpinning concerns. The Newells brought their jar of lake water and prepared statements to reiterate that the situation in Burtis Bay remains a concern.

“What has happened in Burtis Bay and what is continuing to happen didn’t need to happen,” Peggy Newell said.

Since November, the Newells have encouraged a cooperative cleanup of the southern end of Chautauqua Lake. Members of every level of local government and various lake nonprofits have visited their shorelines in the past several months. All have reported a need to do something in the area.

“We’re in an environmental crisis, and we, the residents, are just heartsick over what is happening,” Peggy Newell said.

Ellicott Town Supervisor Patrick McLaughlin said he’s wanted something done in Burtis Bay since the ice started to come off those waters in late March. Future cleanup scenarios could include raising the lake level to better accommodate excavation equipment and dredging through either local nonprofits or remote contract organizations.

“We’ve looked for somebody outside of our area,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin and town council members agreed that lake consensus would be a means to hopefully making sure Burtis Bay-type situations do not occur in the future, and the vote to sign the countywide lake agreement passed unanimously. Council member Patrick Tyler was absent.

“The lake needs to be treated like the sick patient that it is,” Borrello said in his pitch.

He mentioned that lake issues should be triaged, meaning that like in a hospital setting, the worst problems should get taken care of first. Borrello said that areas like Burtis Bay would be given priority under newfound lake collaboration. Twelve of 16 entities have become cosigners for the memo, and the other four groups — the village of Lakewood, village of Bemus Point, town of Ellery and Chautauqua Lake Partnership — have yet to vote on the matter.

“This is a binding agreement because it needs to be,” added Borrello, who also said that businesses like the Chautauqua Harbor Hotel won’t donate for lake maintenance if these entities are expected to take sides.

In other news, Highway Superintendent Bob Pickett said that, due to changes in the state budget, the town is losing $22,500 in winter recovery funding. He said summer work dollars will be repurposed to ensure proper winter recovery resources are provided in the area.

Council members voted to extend the terms of the clerk and supervisor from two years to four years, in accordance with most towns. Voters will see this proposal as a separate ballot item during the general election.

A town property on Merlin Avenue was also voted to be put up for bid as the town hasn’t used the vacant parcel beyond maintaining it. The property will be put up for an initial bid of $26,500.

Follow Eric Zavinski at twitter.com/EZavinski