Applications for citizen group missing

by Andrew Batten

Mountain Island Lake Marine Commissioners declined Wednesday to name members to a stakeholder group that will comment on proposed boating regulations.

Commissioners postponed their decision after several commissioners brought forward concerns about missing applications.

The board began taking applications for the group in July after commissioners and the public asked for more voices on the proposed Lake Management Plan, which includes the Motor Vessel Managed Access Regulations. Those regulations would ban boats longer than 22 feet and pontoon boats longer than 26 feet.

The commission had planned to elect members Wednesday night but before that could happen, Mountain Island resident Rick Jersey approached Commissioner Meg Morgan, with a note that said he wasn’t on the list of applicants for the group.

That led to a discussion in which several commissioners said they hadn’t received several applications on Wednesday.

“Some of them I just received,” Commissioner Tim Eldridge said. “Some of them I haven’t received at all.”

Another applicant, David Merryman, the Catawba Riverkeeper, also told the commission that he had submitted an application, which apparently went missing.

The problem seems to have stemmed from a change in the commissions’ executive administrator. Annette Demeny left the commission in December for another job within Centralina Council of Governments, which helps run the commissions administrative functions.

Carol Lewis took over as the new executive administrator, but it wasn’t clear when exactly the applications went missing. Some had appeared on a list of applicants, only to disappear from the same list later.

“She says she gave me everything,” Lewis said while the board tried to investigate what had happened.

Bill Duston, a planning director with Centralina Council of Governments, promised commissioners he would look into the problem.

“No one wants to disenfranchise anyone in this process,” Duston said.

But Commission Chairwoman Cathy Roche was afraid the damage had already been done.

“I am very disturbed about this,” Roche said. “This commission is fighting for its reputation and we are being undermined by the people who we hire to help us. I am more than appalled.”

Duston and Lewis will go through Demeny’s e-mail accounts in an effort to find any potential missing applications. But Chris Clark, the commission’s attorney, was still more concerned about the applications that are missing and may never be found.

“I’m not worried about the names we know that didn’t make the list, but those who we don’t know about and may never know about,” he said.

But before commissioners could get to discussion on the applicants and their missing applications, there was still more talk about what type of representation should be include on the stakeholder group.

Initially, when the group was first envisioned, the commission developed a list of specific categories that would have representation in the group.

They are: a marine commissioner from each of the three counties; Duke Energy; N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission; water quality professional; recreational professional; law enforcement, one supervisory and one operational; environmental professional; utility provider, water or sewer; natural resources professional; homeowner’s association representative; concerned citizen for active recreation; concerned citizen for passive recreation; nonresident lake user; a county commissioner from all three counties.

After applications began coming in, Roche felt two more categories, a fisherman and a lakefront property owner should be added. But commissioners declined to add a third category, a representative from the commission’s Lake Management Plan committee, the group of three commissioners that developed the plan.

Commissioner Pam Beck supported naming former commissioner Alice Battle to that position.

“I would support Alice because she’s a walking encyclopedia on the plan,” Beck said.

But other commissioners felt that the stakeholder group was developed to provide feedback on the commissioners’ plan. To add a person who helped develop the plan would dilute the group’s purpose.

“We need to look outside of the box instead of always inside the box” for more voice, Commissioner Jerry Campbell said.

The commission is planning to elect people to the stakeholder group at its Feb. 2 meeting at Mecklenburg County’s Environmental Services Facility at 4222 Westmont Drive off Billy Graham Parkway.

Roche said the group will have a maximum of 20 people and will meet eight times. When the group will begin meeting is unclear.

To learn more about the Lake Management Plan, visit the marine commission’s website www.marinecommission.com or visit www.mountainislandweekly.com and search for boating regulations.

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