Several residents who live on or near Hicks Lake in Lacey said Thursday that they are mostly supportive of a plan to create a management district to better maintain and improve the quality of the lake.
Those voices were heard during a crowded public hearing before the Lacey City Council. The hearing was just one in a series of steps that must take place before the lake management district can be established.
Although the lake district was largely supported by those in attendance, some also asked pointed questions about property assessments, whether the district would merely control or eradicate invasive plants on the lake, and whether the area’s most vulnerable residents, such as senior citizens, would be able to afford the assessments.
Lake Management District No. 1 would raise about $51,000 a year through property assessments and other fees. For example, the owner of a lakefront parcel would pay $300 per year, while the owner of an upland parcel with access to the lake would pay $25 per year.
Twenty-five dollars doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but it is for someone who has retired and lives on a fixed income, resident Cynthia Burnes said during the public hearing.
“I am for this,” said Burnes about the lake management district, “but I just want to watch out for my neighbors.”
Dan Kaiser, one of the Hicks Lake property owners who has spearheaded the creation of the lake management district, eventually was called on in the audience to respond to some of the questions.
He said the $25 assessment is about half what other lake management districts in the area charge. He also said that those residents who already qualify for a reduction in their property tax would see a similar reduction applied to their lake management district assessment.
Longtime Hicks Lake resident Terry Carr questioned the goal of the district: Is it to merely control invasive species or eradicate them?
Kaiser said the district will have to work with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“We can’t destroy all the habitat,” he said. “We need to control it enough to take care of the lake and improve its quality.”
Carr also pointed out that the flat-rate assessments mean the owner of a 50-foot lot and a 400-foot lot will pay the same rate.
“That is true in this case,” said Tom Palmateer, a management analyst for the city of Lacey, who brought the council up to speed on the district before the public hearing started.
After the meeting, Palmateer said the flat-rate approach makes sense because the cost to hire a surveyor and measure the properties could be a challenge and expensive.
Mike Mahoney, who has lived on the lake since 1968, testified that he has seen the lake become infested with weeds and grass over the years.
“Anybody living on the lake is a fool not to go along with this,” he said about the district. “What is $300 a year to enhance the lake?”
After the hearing, the council voted unanimously to send the district plan to the residents of Hicks Lake for a vote. If a simply majority approves the district, the council can take action in early October, and the district will be formed, Palmateer said. If the effort fails to gain a simple majority of votes, the lake management district effort comes to an end, he said.
Also on Thursday, Councilman Jeff Gadman, the city’s representative on the Joint Animal Services Commission, praised the recent hiring of Ric Torgerson, the new executive director of Joint Animal Services in Olympia. He pointed out that Torgerson is a veteran.
That led Councilman Michael Steadman, the city’s representative on the Olympia Lacey Tumwater Visitor & Convention Bureau board, to share his displeasure about the lack of veterans who have applied to be the new executive director of that group.
Of 62 applicants, only one was a veteran, Steadman said.
“Veterans give so much to our way of life,” he said. Steadman served in the Marines.
The VCB is filling the spot left vacant by George Sharp, who left the organization to run his own businesses.