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Ossipee board approves funds for suction harvesting of milfoil


August 26, 2010
OSSIPEE — Selectmen took some action Monday in the mitigation battle against invasive milfoil and authorized $6,500 for suction harvesting of the weed in Phillips Brooks and Pickerel Cove in Ossipee Lake.

Acknowledging, "Doing something now is better than doing nothing," board chair Harry Merrow, and members Kathleen Maloney and Morton Leavitt voted unanimously in favor after a discussion with members of the town's milfoil committee and an Ossipee Lake Alliance member.

Earlier this season, board members refused to sign a contract to treat areas with the herbicide, 2, 4-D, because the contract held the town, rather than the state or the treatment company, responsible if anything went wrong.

"The town assumed liability… I would never sign that contract," said Merrow at the Aug. 23 meeting. And the board never did. When Leavitt asked whether it would be wiser to wait until spring to take action to mitigate milfoil, Conservation Commission and Milfoil Committee member Elizabeth Gillette paraphrased state limnologist and milfoil expert Amy Smagula. "Doing something now is better than doing nothing," said Gillette. Prior to the vote, Gillette suggested that the motion specify that suction harvesting be done "at the leading edge of the milfoil" growth. Trained divers will assist in the suction harvesting efforts early this fall. Gillette added that Smagula indicated she would come up to install the benthic barriers, which prevent migration of the weed, into the lake.

In recent meetings on milfoil mitigation, most experts agree that a combination of herbicide (2,4-D) and suction harvesting works well to keep growth down.

Invasive milfoil is a problem throughout the state and local lakefront communities, such as Freedom and Wolfeboro, have launched aggressive offensives.

With assistance from the NH Department of Environment Services and input from the Ossipee Lake Alliance, the town created a long-term variable milfoil management and control plan for the lake system through 2015. At the meeting, Merrow said the town needs a long-term plan that lists associated costs. Gillette provided the board with a suggested timeline and action plan created earlier this year. The plan utilized a mix of herbicide treatment, diver-assisted suction harvesting, benthic barrier placement, and a prevention and early detection program.

One member of the Ossipee Lake Alliance hit on the prevention and awareness angle at the meeting.

"There's no signage whatsoever," noted Perry Fine, a member of milfoil committees in Ossipee and the Broad/Leavitt Bay Association. Fine is also an Ossipee Lake Alliance member.

"No one has any idea they're whether they are going into an infested area; if you do nothing next year it will get worse. We do need to put some signage up and limit access to infested areas," said Fine. Merrow said signs were a good idea but questioned whether the state would be responsible for installing them. He also suggested that DES may be "part of the problem" since years ago, and ostensibly prior to state intervention, he used to rake out the organic material at the bottom of the lake. Officials have noted that the debris at the lake's edge and bottom may be favorable to milfoil growth.

Milfoil Committee member Jim Fitzpatrick asked the board about setting aside funds at town meeting, through warrant articles, for milfoil mitigation. The mitigation costs go well beyond the $5,000 currently set aside from the town. "I'm wondering what is the process of getting on the town warrant early enough. We need to increase that amount," he said. Broad Bay homeowners pay approximately $1.5 million in property taxes and he thinks homeowners would be willing to pay a few extra dollars a year to protect their property values.

Merrow said the town in a bad economy couldn't afford to allocate large amounts in every year. He said the state is supposed to pay 50 percent of the costs, with the remainder split between towns and homeowners.

He said the state's funds are drying up.

Ambulance contract

In other business, the board acknowledged receipt of a letter from Medstar EMS owner Randy Hayford, who is closing the business. The assets are being taken over by a new company run by Medstar former operations manager Brian Johns called Lifestar EMS. Citing health and financial reasons for dissolving his business, Hayford expressed his regrets and appreciation to the town in his letter.

On that note, selectmen held a meeting on Aug. 16 with the town's fire precincts chiefs Adam Riley of Ossipee Corner, Brad Eldridge of West Ossipee, and Mike Brownell of the Center Ossipee Fire Departments, along with Brian Lord, Brian Johns and Justin Van Etten to discuss the request for proposals for a new ambulance service contract. The town had planned to put the service out to bid anyway. At the Aug. 16 meeting the parties agreed to change the date for the contract to expire on April 1 rather than December 31. A new contract, when awarded, would kick in January 2011.

County Farm Road

In other business, the board briefly discussed a letter from Public Works Director Brad Harriman to the County Commission that clarifies that the county, not the town, is responsible for reconstruction County Farm Road. Selectmen Kathleen Merrow and Harriman were scheduled to attend this week's County Commission meeting on Wednesday (Aug. 25) morning.

"It is the town's opinion that while there is construction going on at the site for the new nursing home, it would be the perfect time for the Commission to have County Farm Road completed as it was shown to be done in the site work plans for the jail construction," stated Harriman in the memo to the commission.

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