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Without Funds, Lake Commission Still Operating

After state denies bill this year that would have provided $150K, commission is stil figuring out how to make up for lost money.

The Lake Hopatcong Commission is still trying to figure out how it's going to maintain its operations after the state denied it funds earlier this year, chairman of the commission and Jefferson Mayor Russell Felter said Wednesday.

Felter said although the commission plans on continuing its operations, some of the responsiblities for maintaining the state's largest body of water, including working on water quality issues, need to be funded somehow.

Whether it's through donations or volunteers, Felter said officials are still in the planning phase.

"It's just going to be a learning process as we go," he said.

He said because it is a state commission, the state will control the weed harvesting, which takes care of a lot of responsibilities.

But for testing the water, which needs personnel and equipment, Felter said they're still figuring out the funds.

The commission is going to put together subcommittees to help out, he said, and they're still going to hold monthly meetings next year and have a website that will post all of the meeting agendas.

After Bill S 495, which would have provided $150,000 for the lake maintenance, was denied by the Senate Budget Committee agenda months ago, the commission terminiated its only full-time employee, Administrator Donna Macalle-Holly, which is effective on Dec. 21.

Felter said the township secretaries will handle her responsibilities once she leaves.

He said the commission still has about $19,000 in its account, which will go towards insurance payments for its commissioners, and to possibly purchase a phone.

Felter said he blames politics for the reason the bill, which was originally appropriated at $400,000, was pulled by the state.

"Everybody told me they were in favor of the bill," he said, "and the governor and the legislator got in an argument, and I think that's where it got held up."

Spokesman for the Senate Republicans Adam Bauer said the bill was denied "due to funding concerns," according to a report on NJ.com.

In October, Democrats on the committee argued that Gov. Chris Christie would veto any spending bill uness there was a proposal to cut spending.

However, sponsor of the bill state Sen. Anthony Bucco said he wanted the funding to help keep the lake—which generates tens of millions of dollars in revenue—pristine, and called it "very immature" to make the proposal a partisan issue.

Felter said he met with state Department of Environmental Protection officials last week who said they would let them keep its files and equipment in Hopatcong State Park offices, but wouldn't provide any money.

"They're willing to help with some grant transition and things like that, but otherwise they're not giving us any funding," he said.

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