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Money Into the Mud

Tue, 11/22/2022 - 12:37


Once again, people are asking us what the heck is wrong with Town Pond. A fresh mat of weed covers most of its surface, little of the wildlife that usually can be found there can be seen, and the water level itself is low, exposing an ugly bulkhead — and also exposing the fact that when village officials undertook a $1 million dredging there, they had absolutely no idea what its effects would be.

Pouring more money into the mud last week, the village board of trustees voted to hire a firm that also lobbies for the company that undertook the big dig in the first place to remove the invasive Eurasian watermilfoil that now is choking the pond. At the same time, Village Hall appears intent on going forward with a landscaping plan there that has been criticized for incorporating nonnative plants and one that would require maintenance at an unspecified and ongoing cost.

Perhaps related, perhaps not, someone in the village’s employ has also been leaving the lights on at night, that is, a series of tree-mounted fixtures that had been installed long ago to allow winter ice skating after dark. With the cost of electricity, this seems a waste, as well as a probable violation of the village’s own light-trespassing law.

Over and above the aesthetic and environmental problems, there is the issue of responsible spending. Most of the $1 million already dumped on the pond came from the town-administered community preservation fund 2-percent real estate sales tax. By law, up to 20 percent of annual C.P.F. income can go to water quality improvement, which has paid for some worthwhile projects, but has also been spent recklessly. The East Hampton Town Board, as the statutory stewards of how the money is used, needs to take its oversight role a great deal more seriously.

Village officials appear to be in deep over their heads as far as the pond is concerned. Ever since the dredging was completed, their explanations for why it has not refilled to its accustomed level have varied. These excuses after the fact have included something about the pond being ringed in sand or that the bulkhead was installed with gaps; now we hear that the big dig disturbed a layer of clay. The reality is that going into this, no one had adequately studied what the potential outcomes could be. This kind of spitballing only continues with the questionable landscaping design and weed-removal plan.

Village officials should admit defeat and commission a proper science-based analysis. What they should not have done is give more money to associates of the company that helped create this situation in the first place.

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