Editor’s Note: the author of this article is a member of the Thetford Selectboard and was directly involved in the 2021 municipal budget as well as some of the personnel matters discussed in this article.
The Lake Fairlee Association (LFA) and private donors have made a one-time $9,000 donation to the Town of Thetford that will come through the Ompompanoosuc Community Trust (OCT). The funds will be used to hire a part-time coordinator for Treasure Island for the 2021 summer season.
The Town had originally intended Nathan Maxwell to oversee Treasure Island following a promotion to Acting Public Works Director, splitting his time between departments. However, Maxwell resigned from his position with the Town shortly after the 2021 municipal budget was finalized. Then-Town Manager Tom Yennerell had estimated that Maxwell would work primarily in Public Works; as such, the line item that supported Maxwell’s salary was moved to that department as well. That left a staffing – and budget – gap in Recreation following Maxwell’s resignation.
While the Town did budget $20,000 for a part-time Recreation Coordinator, again with the idea that Maxwell would be providing management to that department, the Recreation Advisory Council quickly pointed out to Town officials that 20 hours a week was insufficient to run both the Town’s recreation programs and Treasure Island.
The Treasure Island Exploratory Committee was instrumental in arranging the donation; several committee members are also active participants in LFA. David Roth, Chair of the Committee and a LFA Trustee, said over email: “The Lake Fairlee Association takes its responsibly to Lake Fairlee very seriously, and as such sees Treasure Island as a critical contributor to the overall health of the Lake and its ecosystem. LFA, OCT, and private donors agree that a dedicated Coordinator for Treasure Island is necessary to help Treasure Island’s best and highest uses vis-à-vis recreation, education, and ecosystem protection are realized.”
According to the conditional donation offer sent to the Town, the Coordinator will focus on “enhancing Treasure Island’s educational and recreational infrastructure, and work closely with the Treasure Island Exploratory Committee via the Recreation Coordinator and Town Manager.”
The Committee has recently been working on an AARP grant application that would see $7,000 in walkway improvements to the waterfront with the intention of making the lake more accessible to seniors, the handicapped, and children in strollers. Dale Gephart, Committee member, wrote in News from Lake Fairlee Nature Associates that, in the future, the Committee hopes to “apply for grants to make the restrooms/changing rooms ADA-compliant, create a handicapped-accessible nature trail, and build a dock at the north end for kayaks and canoes.”
According to Gephart, the Committee has also discussed the need for a “comprehensive site survey to assist long-range planning, cleanup, and site restoration.”
Substantial changes – or unbudgeted costs – related to the lakefront facility would need to be approved by the Selectboard and overseen by the Town Manager. However, one thing is clear: the Treasure Island Exploratory Committee is doing a lot of work.
The photos in this article are courtesy of Douglas Tifft, Committee member.