Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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A quarter-million dollar problem
With Mud Hens gone, village president suggests forming a lake management district

by Steve Targo

May 24, 2012

BLOOMFIELD — On Friday, Village President Ken Monroe said the growth of weeds in Pell Lake is most accelerated between June and July.

But already, the tips of weeds have breached the water level along the northern shoreline, and already, people have asked the village to remove them.

"When you're out there fishing, you don't want a lot of weeds," Monroe said, adding it tangles up lines, not to mention props and swimmer's limbs. He said swimmer's itch also can become a concern.

It's also a concern of Kip Trumpulis, of the Badger State Outboard Association. In an e-mail Sunday, he stated the removal of weeds from Pell Lake "could be crucial for our races to occur," although it appears the return of the power boat races is still on tap for June 2 and 3.

But on Friday, Monroe threw out a hefty figure. He said if the village takes up the responsibility or removing weeds from the lake, it could cost about $250,000.

However, there are options which Monroe said he is exploring. He's looking into a grant which may help acquire a weed harvester, alternate methods of weed removal and the creation of a lake district.

"My answer to this whole thing, when I was talking to people about it, was to set up a lake district, which people won't like," he said. "Once you have a lake district, they may have the power to collect money (for lake management). They would have to have meetings, like they do with the Tombeau-Benedict Lake District, (but) that would be one way they could get these grants and everything else."

A lake district may have the ability to assess taxes, which Monroe said is why he thinks some people may oppose the idea. But he said there are some positives.

"There's so many things a lake district can do (such as) create and operate water safety patrols," Monroe said.

He said he brought this up a couple months ago, when a resident approached the Bloomfield Village Board asking for weed removal from Pell Lake.

"My suggestion is if everyone wants to get this started, contact the Lake Benedict-Tombeau Lake District or go to one of their meetings," Monroe said. "I plan on contacting SEWRPC (Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission). They have a person who can help form these districts."

But isn't it still the taxpayers who foot the bill, whether they're paying the village or a proposed lake district?

Monroe said the village is spread too thin right now.

"At this time, the village just doesn't have the money to invest a quarter million dollars in a weed cutter when we really need the money for our roads," he said. "If you talk to the highway department, the road situation isn't very good. Road funding (from the state) has been cut back (and) we've been just trying to hold down taxes."

As of now, Monroe's investigation is ongoing, still preliminary. He said people can call him at (262) 279-5980 with questions and ideas.

Mud Hens no more

For several years, a volunteer group formed by Scott Haldeman met once a week each summer to remove the weeds from Pell Lake.

Haldeman, a Bloomfield resident since 1976, started the Mud Hens, and according to Monroe, it drew several volunteers.

"They used to spent almost every weekend down at the lake harvesting weeds," he said.

The Mud Hens used three harvesters in its operation. In 2006, Haldeman said two harvesters — "Jaws" and "Chopper" — actually removed the weeds from the lake. A third harvest, "Goose," was used as a weed transporter, he said.

Haldeman said that year, the Mud Hens removed 819 tons of weeds from Pell Lake.

Then, on May 5, 2008, Haldeman died. On Friday, Monroe said the Mud Hens tried to carry on. Eventually, the harvesters were sold.

"They pretty much lost most of their volunteers," he said. "I knew, at one time, I think there were only two people at the lake (harvesting weeds)."

Monroe said this is the second year without the Mud Hens.

So how was it a volunteer group was able to acquire weed harvesters? They conducted fundraisers. But Monroe said the Mud Hens also asked the town of Bloomfield for money each year.

"The town would fund them," he said. "Sometimes it was $200, sometimes it was $1,000."

But there appeared to be an effort to keep things fair among officials in a community which includes five lakes — lakes Benedict, Tombeau, Ivanhoe, Pell Lake and part of Powers Lake.

"What we decided to do, instead of just funding or handing the Mud Hens money, if there was any maintenance (costs), they would turn in the tickets on any repairs that were done on the machinery or the gas (receipts)," Monroe said. "Then the town would give up to 75 percent for fuel and maintenance."

Lack of funds, lack of equipment

Since the collapse of the Mud Hens, the need for removing weeds has remained, and some haven't been afraid to ask the new Bloomfield Village Board to do something about it.

"About three months ago, we have a gentleman at a village board meeting ask if the village was going to clear the lake of weeds," Monroe said. "I said no. For one thing, we don't have a weed cutter."

Monroe said he has corresponded with Kathleen Wolski, of the Department of Natural Resources. There is a cost-sharing grant available to "local units of government and qualified lake associations," she stated to Monroe in an April 4 e-mail. That grant has a June 1 deadline, and it requires the village to adopt an aquatic plant management plan. It is the same grant program which helped the town of Geneva purchase a weed harvester, Monroe said.

However, even if the village received the grant, it appears the cost remains in the six-figure range.

"After looking at this whole thing and talking about the weed cutter, the elevator, the trailer, any dump truck to haul the weeds out of here, the share to the village would be roughly $125,000," Monroe said.