LAKE GEORGE — The Lake George Watershed Coalition is getting a nearly clean slate as former members reorganize and continue its mission of protecting water quality.
The coalition, which included municipalities and environmental groups around the lake, has been dormant for about a year after its former director, David J. Decker, was accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in state and federal funds. He was indicted on 22 counts, including grand larceny, corrupting the government, tax fraud and falsifying business records.
Decker, of Burnt Hills, has maintained that he is innocent, but the court case continues.
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Meanwhile, lake stakeholders have started picking up where they left off, although Lake George Mayor Robert Blais said the group is getting a new name, the Lake George Partnership, and a new set of protocols.
It is also absorbing the Stop Aquatic Invasives from Entering Lake George Partnership, which has run various seminars, including an annual road salt summit.
Blais met with many of the coalition’s members last week to see if they were interested in starting the group up again.
“They were all enthusiastic about putting together an organization that would replicate what the Lake George Watershed Coalition did, which in 15 years, we were able to get a total of $4.1 million in grant funding from the state,” Blais said. “The concept of it was pretty simple — getting together with all the people around the lake and putting in applications for grants as a group so that we’re not competing with each other and not duplicating what each other is doing, and that concept was extremely successful.”
While Warren County towns in the watershed are on board, Blais is reaching out to Washington County municipalities to ask them to join, too.
The group will no longer have any paid employees, and participants will no longer pay dues, which used to be $7,000 a year.
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Blais said there will be two committees that meet, one made up of presidents of the Lake George Land Conservancy, the Lake George Association and The Fund for Lake George, as well as town supervisors. The other will include directors and managers of organizations like the Lake George Park Commission and the soil and water conservation districts, to provide guidance on what water quality protection projects need to get done.
While he has not yet met with that second advisory committee, Blais said that individual discussions he has had have encouraged him that the committee will form.
Both committee meetings will be open to the public and advertised in the newspaper once scheduled. Blais added that a member will take minutes for the public’s review, too, something not done at the coalition’s meetings.
“We’re also going to shift the meetings around to each participating municipality,” Blais said, “so they’ll all feel more of a part of it.”
Ken Parker, vice chairman of the Lake George Park Commission, discussed the regrouping at the commission’s meeting Tuesday morning. While not mentioning Decker, Parker said the coalition had had a “bump in the road,” but had done a “spectacular job doing good work.”
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s in the process and running mentally and emotionally,” Parker said of the new Lake George Partnership.
Parker and Blais both said the group had missed applying for last year’s consolidated funding application grants, and did not want to miss another.
Parker added there will be no bank account and no bylaws, “just meetings in a 360-degree radius” to encompass the whole Lake George Park.
Pat Dowd, director of communications for the Lake George Association, chimed in at the end of the meeting, saying the association was pleased the groups were coming together again.