CRYSTAL FALLS—The Iron County Board of Commissioners voted to discontinue its agreement with Stambaugh Township allowing placement of a pay station and sign at the county-owned Chicaugon Lake boat launch following very vocal discussion at its Sept. 25 bi-monthly meeting.
The township had received permission to put the pay station at the launch earlier this year, as a means to sell day-use lake permit stickers.
The revenue generated from the permits, which was made into a township ordinance, is slated to be used to treat the Eurasian watermilfoil invading the lake.
County Board Chairman Wayne Wales said the commissioners had one reason only to rescind the agreement—that there had been a violation when a camera was placed at the launch.
“We agreed to leave the pay box through the first of the year,” he said. “We were comfortable with that. Since then, we think there was a heavy violation of the agreement we had with the township.
“Things have gotten out of hand, and we all need a cool-down period.”
Commissioner Bev Camp said she took offense at letters and comments she has received, which tend to blame the county for harassment of watercraft users.
“When we entered the agreement,” she said, “you were holding us harmless, and now you’re blaming us for everything.”
Lake property owner Peggy Connors asked the board what exactly the violation was. Camp said it was the placement of a camera on county property without county permission.
“The only thing we approved was the pay pipe and the sign.”
Adding another level of discontent to the discussion were comments from residents who fish on the lake and disagree with the permit process completely.
“I get nothing for my $40,” said Steve Stoychoff. “Everyone’s worried about the weeds, but lakes can’t be weed-free, especially not out of my wallet.”
Wales said the County Board was behind solving the milfoil problem, but was not interested or involved with the township’s ordinance.
“All this is doing is separating people,” he said, adding that the DNR won’t even attend meetings because they believe the ordinance is illegal.
Lake property owner John Archocosky addressed the board and told the commissioners that it was, in fact, he who put up the camera.
“I did this strictly on my own,” he said, because of the vandalism. He explained that a sheriff’s deputy advised the camera because his department couldn’t stop the vandalism, even though they tried.
“There was no discussion as to the legality of the camera,” Archocosky said. Vandalism was occurring on county property.
“That was the issue. I did it without consulting anyone from the Lake Association or the township.”
The camera wasn’t actually hidden, either, and he was advised not to say much about it, as it would likely be stolen.
“Didn’t you think it was shady, to put something on county property?” asked Wales.
Archocosky said it was on public property, and appropriate.
“There is no expectation of privacy on public property, and the public owns that property.”
Before the discussion escalated, Civil Counsel Steve Tinti reviewed what, exactly the agreement between the county and the township included.
“It is to permit, operate and maintain a self-service pay station and signage,” he said.
“Now, there have been reports—and I stress these are only reports, that citations have been written by township officials; there has been near-civil disobedience at the boat launch, that activities of township enforcement officials have disrupted park operations; and vandalism. These have been characterized as the county’s not doing anything about them.
“This has created an environment that is not inviting for people to use county land.”
Tinti said the agreement may continue until it is revoked by the county—“not the sheriff and not the park manager.
“There are no ambiguities. The county can do what they want to do. The county has the absolute legal authority to terminate the agreement at any time, and the current activities are now far beyond what the agreement authorizes.”
Stambaugh Township Supervisor Gene Pellizzaro addressed the commissioners, noting he has visited the boat launch 158 times between May 15 and Sept. 16. He recorded 572 vehicles with empty boat trailers, assuming those boats were on the lake, he said. Two-hundred-thirty-four vehicles had Michigan license plates; and he estimated 85 to 90 percent of them were out of county. Two-hundred-twenty-seven had Wisconsin plates; 52 had Illinois plates and 59 vehicles were from other states.
In that period, $7,325 was paid by riparian property owners; 64 seasonal, non-riparian permits sold generated $2,960; and 292 day permits generated $2,175.
“The goal was to raise $12,000 for treatment,” he said. The total revenue from the permits was $12,460.
“We’ve achieved our goal.” However, he reported over $23,000 had been spent in the last year on treatment, permits, surveys and other activities, and estimated it would cost another $23,000 to $24,000 to treat the lake next year.
“We haven’t asked the county for a nickel,” he added.
Commissioner Carl Lind moved to rescind the agreement with Stambaugh Township; all commissioners voted in favor. Commissioner Rosalie King was absent.
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