To keep the Lake Hopatcong Commission running and conducting weed harvest operations, state Sen. Anthony R. Bucco said on Thursday that he had inserted $600,000 into the state budget and hopes it will remain when the final budget is approved next week.
"I'm just hoping the majority [Democratic] party doesn't take it out," Bucco said. "It's important to support this valuable state resource."
Though his district will change next year to not include Jefferson, Bucco will continue to represent Roxbury and Mt. Arlington, and said he will always champion Lake Hopatcong's interests.
"People say I must have a home on the lake... or a boat on the lake... or that I go fishing... or that I go swimming," he said. "The fact is, I've only been on the lake a half dozen times in my life. But it is a state asset and it's beautiful, and we need to do what we can to protect it."
Jefferson mayor and Lake Hopatcong Commission chairman Russ Felter said he had talked to Bucco and state Assemblyman Jay Webber (who will begin to represent the lake in 2012) last week, and was told that local legislators would try to secure funding for the commission—and hope that it stays put in the budget.
"We really appreciate the efforts of our state legislators to keep the commission's activities going," Felter said. "The fact is, we need to bring the commission back to be as effective and useful as it has been in the past."
At Monday's commission meeting, the group voted in favor of using what remains of its funding to conduct weed harvesting during the month of July. "If we don’t do it, we’re going to be out of business in a couple of months anyway,” Felter said as he proposed the measure. “At least this helps the lake. We’ve got to do something.”
Jack Devore, owner of Jefferson Dairy in Lake Hopatcong, praised Bucco's efforts at Thursday's "Network on the Water" event. "He's helped us out many, many times," he said.
Bucco said he would know on June 30 if the $600,000 remained through the state budget negotiations. Without some funding from the state, commissioners said, the Lake Hopatcong Commission is likely to shut down within a few months.