The vote has been cast and two years of volunteer effort in preparing and presenting the Lake Improvement District (LID) for Serpent Lake has abruptly come to an end. Our attempt to establish a funding source to protect Serpent Lake from the expansion of existing invasive weed species ended on Tuesday as Commissioners Thiede, Houge and Trusty voted against the establishment of our LID. Ironically, Thiede voted in favor of previous LIDs. Evidently the reelection temperament in their districts is more important than what's right for the quality of Serpent Lake. Not one fault was found with our application. In addition to our 64 percent margin of property owners in favor of establishment, we jumped through every hoop the county board could fabricate: we attended at least 6 meetings at the county level, prepared reams of paperwork and documented the scope of the problem and needs. We attempted DNR funding, knowing in advance as all five commissioners knew as well, the DNR has not and will not be a viable source of funding for weed control. This is why the LID is so important!
As commissioners, Thiede and Houge tried to defend their decision, I was dismayed by their lack of sincerity and specifics regarding our proposal. Thiede pontificated that tax increases would prevent his children from affording the luxury of lakeshore ownership like he is fortunate enough to enjoy. Those worries are irrelevant to our proposal and they are hypocritical considering his previous votes in favor of LIDs. Considering our request was for $50 per lakeshore property owner, this amount is less than half of the amounts charged by most other districts that Thiede voted in favor of. We explained that we are trying to manage the Serpent Lake weed issue before it becomes overwhelming. By being proactive we can control the costs.
Commissioner Houge's pre-election encouragement to our group last September was deep in voter double-speak. "I encourage you to bring this to a vote." Today, the newly elected commissioner Houge feels some other entity should pay for lake protection. His analogy that lakes are like trails and we don't ask the property owners to pay for trails is just wrong. In fact, I have been on the same agenda with Mr. Houge as he presented on expanding ATV trails and the need for funding. The property owners around Serpent Lake overwhelmingly want to protect the lake and they are willing to pay for it. Mr. Houge wants to protect his commissioner position.
Commissioner Trusty was confusing. He started off saying he would vote for a LID if he lived on a lake that was requesting one. As he furthered his comments he said "at the end of the day I need to vote my heart as I walk out that door." I guess his heart is not on the lake he theorized living on.
As for commissioners Franzen and Nystrom, quite simply, they get it. They understand our situation and they spoke eloquently about it. Both of them were as amazed as I was by the lack of any single substantive reason to deny our application. I guess in the end just having the power to say no must be reason enough. The influence of "the good old boys club" doesn't hurt either.
STEVE CRUM is a resident of Serpent Lake and Deerwood Township in Crow Wing County.
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