Residents around Pickerel Lake in Mecosta County are upset over a possible tax increase on their property. At issue is an uncertain upgrade and required inspections of a lake level control dam. The county wants to impose a special assessment district for property owners around the lake but Grant Township Supervisor Randy Vetter says they don't like it.
“The residents are outraged. There's no estimate on cost for engineering or construction of an upgrade, they're not interested. The simple structure that is there has worked fine since 1974.”
Vetter brought the issue to the attention of the Mecosta County Board of Commissioners at Thursday's regular meeting. He adds that a petition drive has been started to abolish the assessment district or the dam since the DNR has in their own flood control gate upstream from the lake.
However, the dam is used to enforce a court ordered one foot differential in the lake level from April to November of each year and Mecosta County Drain Commissioner Jackie Fitzgerald says the dam requires periodic inspections.
“All dams, all county lake level control structures – and we have seven of them – have to have an inspection by a registered engineer every three years. The Pickerel Lake dam is the last lake level control structure that doesn't have a special assessment district around it to pay for maintenance and repair and inspections of it.”
She also believes the dam is unsafe because it consists of a series of wooden planks that have to be manually lifted in and out by people who wade out into the lake.
“A thought of mine is to have a crank system from the top because it's dangerous – you have to have waders, you have to get in there and pry the boards up and knock them down in some way.”
Any improvement project for the dam has not yet reached the planning stage because that would require an engineering study for the dam and a nearby roadway.
“That would be a project with the road commission and I don't have anything right now. So it stays as it is, but costs do incur for the inspection,” says Fitzgerald.
Ironically, Fitzgerald says the dam was originally requested by property owners around the lake.
“The structure itself is a court ordered lake level [dam] petitioned by property owners back in the early '70s to be created.”
In 2012, the County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution granting the Drain Commission the right to petition for special assessment districts to help pay for dam upgrades and maintenance. Fitzgerald is currently working on a way to fairly assess the property owners, However, she says, a big problem is the Department of Natural Resources which owns much of the lake property.