June 10, 2019 09:56 AM
A coalition of city leaders, businesses and property owners told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District has "outlived its usefulness and duplicates government services" and should be "eliminated".
Gabriel Jabbour owns and operates four marinas on Lake Minnetonka and he told KSTP the LMCD is overreaching its taxation authority and is a government agency whose services could be handled by the DNR, the 14 cities on Lake Minnetonka and the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District.
"It is a money grab right now," said Jabbour. "I used to be on the LMCD Board and I can tell you the taxes it is levying on cities and businesses is no longer needed because the services the LMCD provides can be folded into other government agencies."
Jabbour said one example of what he considers to be poor management is the LMCD's efforts to control aquatic invasive species around Lake Minnetonka.
"It has been done terribly and the milfoil problem, for example, has gotten worse," said Jabbour. "The LMCD has spent tens of thousands of dollars to simply cut down the milfoil which only makes it come back stronger and better and it is a waste of public money to do it that way."
More from KSTP:
The Lake Minnetonka Association has approximately 500 members and its president, Eric Evenson, told KSTP his organization agrees with Jabbour's position.
"The LMCD is simply a duplication of services and their authority to tax cities, impose fees on businesses and some homeowners for certain types of boat slips is just something that is not needed anymore."
Evenson said when the LMCD was created more than 50 years ago there was a strong need for a government agency to protect the lake from pollution and control shoreline erosion.
"The LMCD was needed in the mid--60s when there was not much out here and the development was starting to come," said Evenson. "But now, with 14 cities on the lake, there are more than enough resources out here to manage the lake's future, keep it clean and monitor its health without the LMCD and, in my opinion, it does more harm than good."
LMCD Executive Director, Vickie Scheuling, told KSTP the opposition to the government agency is "wrong" because it does not duplicate services and eliminating the LMCD would actually "do more harm than good."
"We are very important, as an agency, in the coordination of programs on Lake Minnetonka," said Scheuling. "The LMCD works wonderfully with other agencies to reach many people who live on the lake, but also the general public which uses the lake."
Scheuling disagrees with the assessment of the LMCD's aquatic invasive species program and said it has done a "very good job" controlling the spread of Eurasian milfoil.
"The lake's preservation has always been the top priority of the LMCD," said Scheuling. "And, you have to stop and wonder what Lake Minnetonka would look like today, if the LMCD had not done such a great job of protecting it all these years."
Jabbour said he and other members of his coalition are considering taking legislative action at the state Capitol next year which would, effectively, end the LMCD as a government agency.
Orono Mayor, Dennis Walsh, stopped short of calling for the elimination of the LMCD, but told KSTP he did support taking a look at how services are provided to protect the lake.
""I support reworking of the goals and the direction of the LMCD," said Walsh. "I believe all of their functions could be rolled into the Watershed District, or the DNR, and would be just as effective with less tax dollars being spent."
Walsh said the city of Orono, at this time, does not have any plans to support any possible legislation at the state Capitol to eliminate the LMCD.
Wayzata City Manager, Jeffrey Dahl, told KSTP there are no plans to join any efforts to eliminate the LMCD and supports its current mission and efforts.
"The City of Wayzata is not in favor of dissolving the LMCD," said Dahl. "In tact, the city has been in total support of the LMCD and its mission to preserve the quality and enjoyment of the lake for everyone."
Updated: June 10, 2019 09:56 AM
Created: June 09, 2019 09:42 PM
Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company