McKusick proposal stirs debate

Harycki’s move to start lake management fee fails

A debate over aesthetics versus recreational use of Lake McKusick and the aquatic plant management plans proposed resulted in fiery debate between council members at last night’s Stillwater City Council meeting.

The council has been discussing in meetings what to do about the lake district funding and the aquatic plant management for the past month.Various views on the topic were presented including those from Lake McKusick Homeowners Association President Bruce Werre, who was given the opportunity to address the council. He told the council he was not impressed with their waffling on the issue.

Proposed aquatic plant maintenance on Lily, Long and McKusick lakes would cost an estimated $62,000 per year, according to City Engineer Shawn Sanders. In early April, Wenck Associates, Inc., recommended a combination of harvesting, herbicides and skimming treatments to remove algae and vegetation from the lakes. McKusick itself would cost $42,000 over 10 years. Council has been looking at various options to find funding for this project.

Options presented have included

  • Separating the three lake improvement districts. The districts’ costs would include an annual $26.17 per property fee for residences on Lake McKusick; $3.36 per property fee for Lily Lake residences, and a $9.85 per property fee for Long Lake properties.
  • Lumping the three districts into one with an annual cost of $15.18 per property to cover the entire project.
  • Charging the city as a whole at $9.23 per property.
  • Increasing the storm water utility quarterly base rate by $1.30 and charging residents citywide $5.20 per property.

Council at the last meeting had seemed to favor the latter option but more input from the community was wanted by some members of the council.

Concerns addressed by Councilmen Doug Menikheim regarded using the money to work with the watershed district and “treat the causes, not the symptoms” of the excessive vegetation issue. While Weidner expressed concerns about the cost and the plans that were being put into place.

“My understanding about what was going on tonight was to ask for people in the city to pay $5 a year more to create a fund for lake maintenance of all these lakes for a plan paid for and approved on top of all these other studies. There was nothing about upstream practices in regards to the watershed district enhancements.” Werre said. “We’ve been working on this a long time and you’ve been waffling. Take action now. The loons are counting on it, the people of Stillwater and the visitors and tourists here expect not to have a cesspool out there!”

While Weidner told Werre what was really being discussed last night was about the management plans in general. He asked City Engineer Shawn Sanders if Lake McKusick’s suggested management plan was more for aesthetics or recreation as the lake is classified as marshland. If the plan was simply created for aesthetics the DNR would not allow it. Right now the plan for McKusick is clearing out vegetation in the middle of the lake, for canoeing, according to City Engineer Shawn Sanders.

“If I’m deciding whether to spend all that money I have to take into consideration all aspects,” Weidner said. “In order for me to spend $420,000 to harvest down the middle of the lake before stuff goes forward I need to know the purpose behind it and I need to know if it’s a judicious use of money.”Weidner said.

“If we want to do any harvesting or herbicide treatments for aesthetics the DNR won’t allow it, but we figured people could go canoeing out there (on Lake McKusick),” Sanders said.

“So it’s a mechanism to get to our endgame.” Harycki said.  “We’ve spent eight years doing study after study chasing pollution of the lake and every time we end up getting to something else. Last year we found that we developed a part in causing the pollution and we’ve spent too much time looking at other studies. We decided to make a lake management plan. Shawn has thousands of pages of studies on this lake and others and I think it’s time that we increase the fee to $5.20. I make a motion to raise the fee and just get it done.”

The motion did not pass due to lack of a second from other council members so nothing was decided about the plans.