Lawmakers Approve Resolutions About Lake

MAYVILLE — A recently tabled resolution to use 2 percent occupancy tax funding for the cleanup of Burtis Bay in Chautauqua Lake along Celoron shores was discussed, amended and approved by county legislators.

This resolution was drafted in response to the large fish kill that occurred due a buildup of Eurasian milfoil and other weeds along the shoreline, negatively affecting residents’ enjoyment of the lake along with the environmental concerns it caused. Originally, the Chautauqua Lake Association was going to be mobilized through community grants to do a fall cleanup. After snow started to fall, the cleanup was postponed until the spring, which also caused the change in requested legislation.

Legislator Pierre Chagnon, R-Bemus Point, said less funds should now be needed to perform the cleanup since dealing with winter weather and winterizing equipment will no longer be necessary.

In the final resolution which passed, up to $25,000 from the 2019 budget is allowed to be distributed from the tax fund for the cleanup. Assistance from the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation and Ralph C. Sheldon Foundation will help make the cleanup a reality.

Chagnon said the resolution was initially tabled, so that the legislature could consider funding before the plan was put into motion with the changed circumstances of having to remove the weeds in the spring.

The resolution passed unanimously to the chagrin of members of the Chautauqua Lake Partnership, who requested a bidding process be put into effect for other potential organizations to execute the cleanup. Various representatives of the group spoke during the privilege of the floor.

“We respectfully request that this body withhold funding for the resolution for work, which is at least four months away, until other contractors besides the CLA have an opportunity to offer their cleanup solutions and price proposals in a competitive environment,” said Jim Wehrfritz, CLP vice president.

After the meeting, Chagnon explained why the legislators ended up passing the resolution and allowing for the funding. He said by the time the legislature would understand the situation when the ice thaws, revealing how many weeds and fish remained floating and how much had settled into sludge on the bottom of the lake, there would not be enough time for a bidding and quoting process for agencies to compete against the CLA. He said the fastest cleanup possible is imperative.

CLP members, including Project Adviser Paul Johnson and Biology Adviser Tom Erlandson, also spoke up with Wehrfritz about their opposal of another lake-related resolution that ended up getting passed Wednesday evening.

Legislators unanimously passed a resolution authorizing use of the same 2 percent occupancy tax fund to retain outside professional services to assist with developing a Chautauqua Lake weed management consensus strategy, something the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance has been working on in the face of criticism from various lake entities, including the CLP.

At the most recent Audit and Control Committee meeting, Chagnon said he supported this resolution because it should help if an unbiased group is able to observe the science of the lake and provide recommendations on how to move forward. Both Chagnon and CLP representatives mentioned the cycle of lawsuits and threats of lawsuits that they view as having stagnated progress on the lake in terms of cleanup of weeds and harmful algal blooms.

CLP members suggested the retention of other professional services would be a waste of tax dollars and that enough studies have already been done. Erlandson said there are enough experienced and dedicated residents in the county who want to help the lake.

“Don’t we know enough already about lake weed management to do that for ourselves?” Erlandson asked.

The legislators thought differently, and in other news, they agreed on most of the dozens of resolutions that were passed. The resolution in support of establishing the development of a renewable natural gas facility at the Chautauqua County Landfill was approved, allowing County Executive George Borrello to negotiate a lease and any other agreements to enable the construction and operation of the facility.

A resolution to set compensation for county coroners between a base salary range of $5,000 to $15,000 for the four coroners and $150 per case worked was approved with 14 votes approving and four votes not in support. There were disagreements at last week’s Audit and Control meeting as to whether the base salary range should be set between $5,000 and $10,000.