Local Leaders Encouraged by Christie Victory

For months, members of the Lake Hopatcong Commission and residents have alluded to the idea that the future of the lake would be in better shape if Chris Christie were to be elected governor. “My conversations with Chris Christie have indicated he would be very supportive of Lake Hopatcong,” commission chairman and Mt. Arlington mayor Art Ondish said at the June meeting, a sentiment repeated by many during the subsequent months.christie.jpg On Tuesday, Christie won the state’s gubernatorial election. And although the governor-elect has no formal policy regarding Lake Hopatcong on the record, local leaders say they are confident that things are moving in the right direction. “I feel new leadership brings new ideas, new priorities and new opportunity,” said Ray Fernandez, owner of Bridge Marina and president of the Lake Hopatcong Alliance. “I am very optimistic of the possibilities that a Christie administration may bring to Lake Hopatcong.  We look forward to working with governor-elect Christie's office to safeguard and protect Lake Hopatcong now and in the future.” Ondish said he was “very elated” that Christie won the governorship. “This is the best thing that could have possibly happened for our great state,” he said. lake_funding.jpgBut Ondish pointed out that times are tough, and Christie’s campaign messages included a lot of “cut, cut, cut” in order to get the state back on track. “Is he going to be doling out money to the thousands of organizations that are going to be knocking on the door? I really don’t think so. It will take him time to understand where the waste is and what to fund. This is all time the [commission] does not have on our side. We need our staff back now and to begin getting that equipment ready now. We do not have the luxury of waiting.” Waiting is exactly what the commission decided to do at the October meeting, when the issue of moving forward with enabling legislation for lake user fees came up. The group decided to reassess the need after the election, in case a change of leadership came to be.  That has transpired, so what the commission will vote on at the Nov. 10 meeting is unclear. Ondish said he has a commitment from the Department of Environmental Protection to get the commission funding almost immediately if some legislation is put in place, and that he plans to meet with Christie once he is in office. “There is no reason that [Christie] could not just scratch the plan on having to go to fees if he has funding to allocate to the [commission],” he said. “If Chris can work with us to get some kind of dedicated funding source that will be sustainable through any administration, that is when I will look away from fees. Until that time, this is all just an excuse for the commission to continue to look for Santa Claus to show up with a bag full of money. It is not going to happen and the lake is going to suffer from the inaction. That is just wrong.”

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