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Money or elbow grease?

No volunteers could mean village hires weed removal service

The weed situation in Pell Lake continues to get worse.

August 07, 2012 | 03:08 PM
BLOOMFIELD — They will honk their horns and say hi when they pass volunteers removing weeds from Pell Lake, but they won't stop and help.

That's what Bill Gaede said over the phone Friday. He used to be one of the Pell Lake Mud Hens, a volunteer group which, before its 2010 hiatus, used to remove lake weeds every summer weekend.

Two years later, much of the lake is swamped with weeds — something Gaede, president of the Pell Lake Sportsmen's Club, said he anticipated.

He said it was so warm so early this year that, this winter, he didn't need to install the club's aerator — a first since the club purchased it. Longer periods of warmth and ample sunlight have created the perfect conditions for lake weeds growth.

But, as Gaede said, people won't stop to help remove weeds. He's not the only one to notice the lack of volunteerism.

On Aug. 1, Bloomfield Village President Ken Monroe said his open call for people to join a committee he envisioned would be a sort of Mud Hens 2.0 yielded no takers.

As for Gaede, some may think what he did reinforced the old saying "no good deed goes unpunished."

In June, he worked a weed cutter on the lake, to help clear weeds so that the Badger State Outboard Association could bring its power boat races back to Pell Lake. He received a $650 fine from the Department of Natural Resources for violating the restrictions placed on a permit obtained by the Mud Hens. On Aug. 1, Gaede said the DNR bumped that fine down to $265.

You can't just grab a machine and start cutting weeds in any lake. Gaede said with his situation, "there's a list two pages long" of regulations to follow. He said it's complex. That's one reason why Gaede supported having the village of Bloomfield pay a professional service to remove the weeds.

Here's another.

"There's not enough volunteers anymore," Gaede said. "Right now, with the Sportsmen's Club, there aren't even many volunteers in that."

In light of waning volunteerism, Monroe's original concept for the committee idea likely will change. He said now, the committee will "sit down and find out exactly what they want to do, meet with people on weed cutting, go over what it (costs) and go from there."

Although Monroe said there were no calls from people who wanted to join the committee, he received two calls from weed removal services in Delavan and Burlington. He said with other issues — the upcoming election, annexation hearing and the 2013 village budget — he likely won't obtain cost estimates from these services until September.

So it would appear the weeds have won this year, which means village officials have more time to worry about what will happen next year.

"If we had to try to rush into (weed harvesting) a month ago, we probably wouldn't have gotten everything taken care of this year anyhow," Monroe said.

But one of the first complaints about the weeds in Pell Lake came six months ago at a village board meeting. Is Monroe dragging his feet?

He said he's not.

"I'm just waiting for people to call me and get involved," Monroe said. "It's going to take the citizens to get involved."

If they don't, he said the village may have to pay someone else to do it.


Earlier this year, Monroe has mentioned four options when discussing how to address the lake weed problem:

n Establish a lake management district to oversee Pell Lake.

n Have the village buy weed harvesting equipment and perform the service itself.

n Pay another service to do it.

n Create a committee of volunteers to handle the job.

Monroe said he still wants to obtain more information about the district idea from the DNR. As for buying a harvester, he said trying to get a grant to offset the cost for that won't happen this year because it's too late to apply. It's still an option for next year, but Monroe said it's expected to cost about $250,000 to buy one.

This leaves the last two options.

Monroe said although he's going to obtain numbers from those two weed removal services, he's not giving up on the committee idea yet.

In fact, he said he talked to Ted Lightfield, another former Mud Hen, about joining.

"He would probably be interested," Monroe said.

In May, Lightfield supported the idea of having a committee or district deal with the weeds. "There's got to be a set group that goes and does things," he said. "The days of volunteering are out the window."

Or maybe not. On Friday, Gaede said he would serve on Monroe's proposed committee.


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