For at least a decade the Lake Fairlee Association has relied on annual grants from the State of Vermont to help fund our milfoil control efforts. In recent years these grants have provided more than a third of our annual operating budgets. The monies were provided through the Aquatic Nuisance Species Grant-in-Aid program administered by the Department of Environmental Conservation.
One of the requirements of these grants is that the applicant must be a municipality. For years the Town of Thetford has generously agreed to be our ‘applicant,’ and we have submitted the paperwork in their name. They have received the grant awards and passed the proceeds to the Lake Fairlee Association. The Association has employed the divers, hired the contractors, and managed the milfoil program. The Association has prepared the application forms at the beginning of the year and the reports at the end of each year. The State has been aware of this arrangement, and the employees of the DEC understand the reason. No single town has taken responsibility for the lake, and the Associaiton was the logical entity to undertake the contol of Eurasian milfoil when it was discovered.
This year the Town of Thetford declined to apply for the grant on our behalf. We had been aware for some time that the arrangement stretched their financial accountability standards. After they signed over the checks to us they had no control of where the money was going. Their auditor found this unacceptable. Therefore our historical arrangement could no longer be maintained. Any acceptable scheme would have to vest program and check writing control in an official Town entity, like a commission. Even if this would work, it would take a while to implement. And the deadline for the grant application was fast approaching.
We approached West Fairlee, and then Fairlee, to see if either might be able to help. The West Fairlee Selectboard asked the same questions of their legal advisors, and confronted the same problem as Thetford. It turns out that they share the same auditor. Fairlee already has a commission which applies for and manages grants for Lake Morey, but they too determined that we were too late to make it work this year
So this year we did not apply for a State grant. This means either that we will have to curtail our program or we will have to find other sources of revenue. At this point it is too early to know how we will proceed. Stay tuned.