Lake Mitchell committee member resigns after $71K plan recommended

The Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee now has two vacancies. Following a special meeting of the volunteer committee in which the group formally recommended a $71,000 expence to define the source of the algae problem at Lake Mitchell, Committee Mem...

An aerial view of Lake Mitchell last August. (Republic file photo)
An aerial view of Lake Mitchell back in August of last year. (Republic file photo)

The Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee now has two vacancies.

Following a special meeting of the volunteer committee in which the group formally recommended a $71,000 expence to define the source of the algae problem at Lake Mitchell, Committee Member Dave Allen turned in his resignation.

Allen marks the second recent departure from the committee, joining former member Gary Bussmus in leaving the group. By joining Bussmus in resignation, Allen leaves the committee down two members days before the group attempts to convince the Mitchell City Council to move forward with the first phase of what could be a costly lake restoration plan from Omaha-based Fyra Engineering.

Allen cited work obligations and the increasing number of committee meetings as the driving forces behind his decision to leave the committee, but he made it clear he's not a fan of the $71,000 study from Fyra. Allen said Fyra's proposal, which includes a $100,000 to $300,000 expense for the project's second phase and an unknown expense for the final stage, could cost the city more than it can afford.

"The bottom line is, does the city have $10 million to $20 million down the road if that's what it costs?" Allen said Wednesday, shortly after turning in his resignation. "My assumption, probably not."


Allen did not attend Tuesday's special meeting of the committee, which met for the third time this month despite its regular once-monthly schedule. Allen cited that sudden increase in meetings as one reason he pulled the trigger on vacating the seat.

"I'm too busy down at my main office, I have a full-time job and there have been too many meetings that I'm not going to schedule my work around to accommodate this mayor," Allen said.

In the special meeting of the committee, the five members able to attend unanimously pushed Fyra's proposal forward to the City Council, with no voice of opposition present in the crowded meeting room at the Mitchell Recreation Center.

Had Allen been present at the meeting, he likely would have voted against Fyra's proposal. Allen would rather see the $80,000 in city funding designated for lake improvements used to reduce algae-causing nutrient loads upstream along the Firesteel Creek.

"I'd like to take that $80,000 and work toward the habitat and the runoff from up there," Allen said. "And I personally do not think that $80,000 is enough money up there because of the way that the farmers run their business. You can't take that away from them either."

Allen suggested working with conservation groups like the James River Water Development District to install holding ponds up the creek, which he believes could serve as a natural filter of nutrients like phosphorus. While the lake committee has stated work along the Firesteel Creek could be included in the Fyra recommendations, the city will have to spend approximately $171,000 to $371,000 before receiving those recommendations.

The first phase of the Fyra plan has been scheduled for discussion at Tuesday's City Council meeting at City Hall. And whatever the council decides, Allen hopes the city doesn't dredge the lake like it did in the late 1980s.

"I just hope to god they don't make the same mistake as pulling those cattails out of the creek," he said.


With Allen's resignation, Mitchell Mayor Jerry Toomey can add two more members to the lake committee. But he was disappointed to learn of Allen's resignation.

"I'm kind of disappointed that Dave resigned from the committee, that's news that I'm sorry to hear," Toomey said.

The two recent resignations, Allen and Bussmus, were part of a committee makeover made by Toomey shortly after he took office in 2015. Toomey appointed Allen, Bussmus, Chad Nemec and Brian Temple, axing Troy Helleloid, former Committee Chairman Mike Blaalid, Bob Sebert and Tom Patzer to make room for the new members.

Toomey was not aware of Allen's resignation when asked for comments on Wednesday afternoon, but he said he had been considering multiple candidates to replace Bussmus on the committee. The committee must have a minimum of seven members, but can include no more than nine.

Current lake committee members include Nemec, Temple, Justin Luther, Mike Kuchera, John McLeod, Joe Kippes and Mark Puetz.

Related Topics: LAKE MITCHELL
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