Residents oppose device because of aesthetics, potential boating hazard

By Michael S. Hoey


The Delavan Town last week denied placing a public health buoy on Delavan Lake.

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Professor Todd Miller proposed placing a water quality monitoring research buoy on Delavan Lake at no cost to the township for a trial from July to October. The buoy would have measured lake water quality and provided alerts for things like algae blooms.

The majority of the Delavan Lake Improvement Association board favored placing the buoy to further monitor lake quality, but residents opposed the device, saying it would be an eyesore and a potential hazard to boaters. The board unanimously denied placing the buy May 21.

Similar buoys have been used on Lake Winnebago and Lake Mendota. The buoy would measure lake and weather conditions and report the data in near-real time to a publicly accessible website via cellular telemetry or a smart phone application.

According to Miller’s proposal, the data would be open to scientists, students and the general public. He said the data has at least three potential uses – a research and learning tool for scientists and graduate students, a source of continuous monitoring data to augment current monitoring activities, and up-to-date lake conditions for swimmers, boaters and other lake recreationalists.

The Miller Laboratory at UW-M would fund the project and would seek no monetary support from the town. The buoy would be located at the deepest part of the lake. Its hull would be made of Surlyn closed cell foam that would extend three feet below the surface of the water, and a tower with solar panels and a navigational hazard light would extend three feet above the water.

The light would be visible up to a nautical mile away. To increase visibility, the tower is painted yellow and covered in reflective tape and a sign indicates boaters should stay back.

Sue Heffron, president of the Board of Directors of the Delavan Lake Improvement Association, said the board supported placing the buoy in the lake with the exception of one member, Kay Beers.

“Scientific monitoring information about our lake is critical to maintaining and improving water quality,” Heffron said.

“It’s not enough to observe from the shore or struggle to fund monitoring,” she said. “The research buoy affords us the opportunity to gather data at all times of the day and night that, if tracked and studied, can help us manage this 2,000-acre irreplaceable natural resource.”

Heffron said giving the buoys a try is worthwhile at least for one summer to gather information that can help make reasoned and proactive decisions about managing the lake.

Commissioner for the Delavan Lake Sanitary District Commissioner John Surinak also supported placing the buoy. Surinak said the buoy would not cost the township anything, no safety concerns have arisen with the buoys in lakes Winnebago and Mendota, and the navigational light is no more than a solid mooring light. He said boaters would like it for the information it would provide, and it would help the township cut costs, get better data and possibly get government grants.

Several lake residents opposed the placement of the buoy. The concerns included:

• The buoy would be an eyesore and have a negative effect on property values;

• The buoy would be a navigational hazard for boaters;

• The navigational light on the tower would be a nuisance to property owners like the new strobe light atop the water tower at Lake Lawn Resort has been;

• The buoy is not necessary because the lake is already being monitored; and

• The buoy would give people the false impression there is a health concern with the lake.

Resident Lenore Cameron was among the residents who opposed the buoy and had a list of other property owners who were not at the meeting who told her they also opposed the buoy.

The list included Alison and John Larkin, Lois Brennan, Susan and Harold Rider, Lisa and Hugh Rider and Susan and John Major.

The town also received emails from residents Les and Steve Snow, Joseph Fehsenfeld, Mimmy and Donald Carlson, Dorrit Bern, Kevin Clifford, Jean and Donald Clark, Michael and Nancy Powers and Carol and John McCarthy opposing the buoy.

Supervisor Barb Militello said she had agreed to the placement of the buoy at a Lake Committee meeting but was no longer sure about it after hearing all the comments. She made the motion to not recommend the buoy.

Supervisor Chris Marsicano said the quality of the lake water is very serious but he also needs to listen to residents. He said most of the comments he has heard have been negative and part of his job is to listen to that feedback.

Supervisor Kim Jedlicka had several questions about the buoy and suggested future listening sessions to get the answers. Supervisor Larry Malsch agreed that more information would be good and liked the idea of listening sessions before the issue gets considered again.


Full-time officer

The board approved a request by Police Chief Phil Smith to hire a full-time officer to replace Jeremiah Burdick, who was fired in December. The department has been filling in the shift with part-time officers.

Town Chairman Ryan Simons said the Police Committee has voted twice to hire a full-time officer, and the Finance Committee recently recommended it as well. Simons made a motion to temporarily lift the township’s hiring freeze to make the hire and then reinstate the freeze.

Marsicano and Militello voted against the full-time hire.

Marsicano said he did not want to short-change public safety but he had not seen proof that the job can’t be done with part-time officers that would cost the township less.

“In these tough economic times, we need to look at all the options,” he said.

Jedlicka said she talked with Smith and came away with the impression that covering the shift is difficult with part-time officers and public safety is her No. 1 concern.


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