September 2, 2008

West Milford Poised to OK Greenwood Lake Plan


WEST MILFORD The Township Council appears poised to officially support boating fees on Greenwood Lake.

In exchange, however, it has succeeded in getting a commitment from the financially pinched Greenwood Lake Commission that the boating fees will not be accompanied by dock fees that would affect local marinas.

Though the commission will actually charge the fees, the council has been called upon to pass a resolution endorsing the commission's proposal to charge each boat that uses the bi-state lake an annual fee.

Commissioners said they need the council endorsement so that state legislators, set to vote this fall on the law allowing such charges, will know that the plan has the support of the municipality.

"Charging boat fees is the fairest, most equitable, most effective way to raise money needed to keep this lake going and make improvements," Commissioner Eric Hastings told the council at its meeting this week.

The plan is to charge every boat that uses the 9-mile waterway, which straddles New Jersey and New York, an annual fee of $37.50 or higher, depending on the size of the vessel.

Commissioners estimate it will bring in about $125,000 each year, much of it from boat owners outside West Milford who come up and use the lake.

But getting the state law passed is a bit complicated: both New York and New Jersey have to pass mirror bills authorizing the fees. New York legislators had a bill in place, but it expired June 30 after New Jersey failed to adopt an identical bill in time.

Lake commissioners said New York legislators promised to pass another bill immediately if New Jersey legislators do it first. Both laws need to be adopted this fall if the fees are to be in place by 2010.

Several council members had a problem with the portion of the proposed bill that says the commission will also charge dock fees. But commissioners assured the council they are looking to get the funding strictly from boats.

"This bill had to be identical to the New York bill, which has dock fees, but we pledge we won't charge dock fees," said Commissioner George Vurno.

The council agreed to consider adopting the resolution at its meeting next Wednesday.

Funding is needed for lake upkeep, such as weed harvesting, as well as keeping the commission running. Vurno pointed out that Steve DeFeo, a commission co-chairman, lent the commission $3,000 to cover insurance payments because the body had run out of funds.

"We are in dire straits," Vurno said. "We're about to lose our shirts."

But several council members were reluctant to support a plan that will force another cost onto local residents.

"I want to hear what the residents have to say," said Councilman Carmen Scangarello.

Resident Clint Smith spoke up and told the council that if the lake became the tourist attraction it once was, it will "double our property values. I don't like paying more money, but in this case I'm for it."


Greenwood Lake boat fee plan

* Lake commissioners estimate that 4,000 boats use Greenwood Lake annually, and fees would bring in about $125,000 in funding.

* Identical bills had been before the New Jersey Senate and Assembly S1833 and A2649, respectively.

* The Senate passed its bill this year.


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