The move by the Wolverine Lake Village Council on Wednesday, Oct. 10 to purchase a new weed harvester has caused a stir among some village residents.
The council voted last week to spend $150,000 toward the purchase.
“There has been some misinformation out there,” said Village Council President John Magee. “There was no motion to delay action on purchasing a weed harvester by the Water Management Board. Only a few members wanted to delay buying one, and there’s some misunderstanding on why we should purchase one now.”
There has been discussion for five years to determine when and if a new weed harvester is needed. The economic situation had prompted the village put a hold on all capital expenditures.
“Over the last five years, we clamped down on expenditures to restore the fund balance, so now people think we can’t do anything, but it was a deliberate strategy,” Magee said. “Now we’re in good, solid condition and can do things.”
The village’s weed harvester is over a quarter-century old and has broken down several times.
“The old one was beyond repair and nearly sank in 2011,” Magee said. “We did substantial welding and parts replacement over the winter, but by mid-August the drive shaft failed.”
For nine months, a committee has been reviewing cost analyses and alternatives. Two bids from leading weed harvester manufacturers in North America were submitted — one from Aquamarine at a cost of $193,065, including a trailer and shipping; and one from Aquarius for $195,205.
The council awarded the purchasing contract to Aquamarine at its Oct. 10 meeting.
As a condition to lock in a lower price, the harvester must be purchased by Sunday, Oct. 28 with a delivery time expected in the spring.
“If we sign the contract in October, we will get the harvester by May 1,” Magee said.
Water Management Board Member John Scott, who opposes the purchase, said that wasn’t a big issue.
“Rarely will a capital equipment manufacturer not hold a price,” he said.
The difference between the purchase price and council-approved $150,000 allocation will be taken from the village’s fund balance.
The council had requested certain specifications to extend the life of the new harvester, including a stainless steel barge and spud anchors.
The committee also looked into contracting for weed harvesting services. In 2010, the cost was about $60,000 for those services.
Magee added that the council will also consider integrating laminar flow aeration in conjunction with harvesting and herbicide applications after Jennifer Jermalowicz-Jones of Lakeshore Environmental, Inc. gave a presentation tailored to the needs of Wolverine Lake.
“To be extremely effective, she recommended herbicides in combination with harvesting and aeration,” Magee said.
The three-fold approach is needed to eradicate the invasive species in the lake, such as starry stonewort and Eurasian watermilfoil, both of which can fragment and spread if harvested.
“Still, harvesting isn’t just to mow the lawn, per se, but to remove biomass from the lake,” Magee said.
The laminar flow aeration process coaxes noxious gases from lake sediments and the results are a cleaner, deeper lake.
But the issue was not simply whether to purchase a weed harvester, but rather contracting with a lake management company prior to purchase.
“We wanted to wait to interview and hire a single individual over the next three months who would form a comprehensive and detailed lake management plan,” Scott said.
According to Scott, Jermalowicz-Jones stated only 20 percent of the weed growth in Wolverine Lake should be harvested, whereas 80 percent should be addressed with non-harvesting measures.
“She said the lake has been mismanaged and we should attack it in the spring with better managed chemicals,” Scott said. “From there harvesting could be a tool, but we needed to get a good defined central management plan by an expert first.”