DANNEMORA - The town of Dannemora may not be able to continue making good on a pledge to help rid the Chateaugay lakes of a longtime environmental problem.
Mary McLean Johnson, president of the Chateaugay Lake Foundation, approached the Dannemora Town Board at its May 25 meeting about restoring funding in the town budget for the foundation. The town has provided $2,500 to the foundation per year for the past three years to assist with removal of Eurasian water milfoil - a nonnative invasive aquatic plant known for clogging boat motors and degrading water quality - from Upper Chateaugay Lake and Lower Chateaugay Lake and the connecting waterway between the two bodies known as "The Narrows." However, the town will be unable to make its commitment to the foundation given the town's current financial status, said Town Supervisor Americo "Ves" Pivetta.
"There's no money, so we took it out of the budget," said Pivetta, who cited the recent closure of the Lyon Mountain Correctional Facility as one of the chief economic concerns for the town.
The lack of a commitment for funding from the town comes at a crucial time for the foundation, said Johnson, as concentrated efforts by teams of trained professionals to remove milfoil from the lakes enter their fourth year. Since the foundation adopted its mission to eradicate the aquatic threat, nearly $250,000 has been raised, with additional commitments made for future years.
Though the foundation largely relies on the support of private donors, such as property owners along the lakes and local businesses, the continued support of the towns of Dannemora and Ellenburg in Clinton County and town of Bellmont in Franklin County is important, said Johnson.
"The state funding that used to be there to help with this problem is pretty much gone now," said Johnson, who noted the burden of funding projects like the foundation's now rests on the shoulders of leaders at the local level. "The towns have a vested interest in maintaining water quality ... When they invest in the water quality, they reap the benefit by preserving the tax base."
According to figures provided by Johnson, the town of Dannemora contains 1,541 taxable parcels, 147 of which are located along the banks of Upper Chateaugay Lake.
"That's 9.5 percent of the tax base," said Johnson. "If you look at the amount of taxes generated by those parcels, it accounts to about 21 percent. The value of those parcels is significant to the town."
That's what Johnson believes the town isn't getting. However, Pivetta disagrees.
"I told Mary that if I had the money, I'd give her a check right now," said Pivetta. "But, we just don't have the money. We'll see what the future brings."
"The town needs this program now more than ever with the closure of Lyon Mountain [Correctional Facility]," said Johnson. "The lakes are a major asset and to cut funding for this project would be pennywise and pound foolish."
Though Johnson said she believes the town board is sympathetic to the foundation's mission, she doesn't believe the gravity of the situation is fully understood.
"I'll just have to keep raising the issue and hopefully the money will be restored," she said.
Johnson is currently in the process of approaching the towns of Ellenburg and Bellmont to see if each municipality will continue their funding of the project.
When reached for comment, Ellenburg Town Supervisor Richard Pearson stated the last payment for his town's three-year commitment for funding will be made in July. After that, he is unsure as to what, if anything, will be done by Ellenburg to further help the foundation.
"I don't know whether we're going to continue with it or not," said Pearson. "[The foundation] will have to make a proposal to the board again like they did three years ago."