At the CLA’s September 12 meeting, the CLA received a brief update from its auditor, Sandra Welwood. Ms. Welwood noted that the past fiscal year was a “turning point” for the Association in that the Association’s record keeping is now consistent, restricted funds and grants are being tracked separately, and that she did not find any errors.
Ms. Welwood noted that the CLA ended its fiscal year with a positive unassigned balance, since the Executive Director position remained vacant for a good portion of the year prior to the promotion of Mark Howarth. She advised the CLA that it may want to set a target goal for its unassigned fund balance. This could be anywhere from three months of operating expenses to up to a year, and that is varied with other boards she’s worked with, but that all had some policy on what they held in reserve.
During the public comment portion of the meeting several individuals, including New Fairfield Selectman Khris Hall and Brookfield Selectman Sue Slater voiced their concern about the apparent change in weed mapping vendors made by FirstLight Power. Ms. Hall, who indicated she was also speaking on behalf of New Fairfield First Selectman Pat Del Monaco, questioned the change from Greg Bugbee of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station to Dr. George Knoecklein of Northeast Aquatic Research to conduct the annual weed mapping of Candlewood Lake. She asked if proper procedure was followed by FirstLight in selecting Dr. Knoecklein and expressed concern for how this might affect the milfoil control programs currently in place, I.e. sterile grass carp and annual winter drawdowns.
Carolyn Rowan of Candlewood Voices also expressed concern during the public comment that Dr. Knoecklein was an advocate of the use of chemicals to control milfoil, something that she was opposed to and that had been voted down in New Fairfield the previous year.
In her Chairman’s Report, CLA Chair Phyllis Schaer noted she had discussed the matter with the CLA’s Executive Committee. For FirstLight to make a change in vendors, they need to get the approval of the Technical Committee, which must vote on any proposal. To the best of her knowledge, Ms. Schaer said that no proposal was made by FirstLight, and that there had been no vote. There was no record of any request for change in either the Committee’s agenda or minutes. Because of this, the Executive Committee drafted a letter of protest to be sent to FirstLight.
She also noted that the CLA is concerned both with the apparent unilateral change by FirstLight and that a change in vendors would mean an inconsistency in data reported. She said that Mr. Bugbee had been compiling consistent data for 11 years. She noted that the proposal made by Dr. Knoecklein is smaller in scope than what has been mapped in the past, and that this could have an adverse effect on both the grass carp program and the annual drawdowns.
CLA Executive Director Mark Howarth noted that someone from FirstLight had initially agreed to come speak at the CLA meeting, but then declined, saying they would be willing to meet privately with Ms. Schaer, Mr. Howarth, and Associate Chair Mark Toussaint privately. Ms. Schaer expressed disappointment that FirstLight would take this position as Mr. Howarth had been working to establish a rapport with FirstLight representatives.
There was a motion made on whether to send the letter to FirstLight. In the ensuing discussion, the question was raised as to whether or not it would be best to send the letter immediately or wait until discussing it further with FirstLight. It was the general opinion of those present to go on record by sending the letter, then to hopefully have an open discussion with FirstLight on the matter. After discussion the CLA voted to send the letter via email and regular mail to FirstLight.
The CLA’s annual Candlewood Lake Cleanup Day, postponed in May due to the storm, will be rescheduled for October 6 with a rain date of October 7, followed by a cookout, band, and bonfire at the New Fairfield Town Beach.
The next regular meeting of the CLA will be held Wed., October 10 at 7:30pm at Brookfield Town Hall.
By Greg Slomba