Oak Grove council ends recent talk over watershed management seats

The Oak Grove City Council may be finished for several months or even years discussing the city’s representatives on the Upper Rum River Watershed Management Board.

Council members Feb. 25 voted to keep John Wangensteen on the board (he has served in the role since 2010), while removing Ed Faherty and replacing him with Dan Denno. Faherty had served since 2006.

Faherty and Wangensteen each have received $60 per watershed meeting from the city for their attendance; the meetings recently have been held once every other month.

As a sitting council member, Denno will serve on the watershed board officially as a council liaison. He will be one  of Oak Grove’s two votes on each board decision, but he will not receive payment beyond his existing council salary.

Councilmember Mike Wylie made a motion, seconded by Sean Sullivan, for Oak Grove to keep Faherty and Wangensteen on the board and appoint Denno as an alternate.

According to Sullivan, Faherty lives on Lake George and Wangensteen brings knowledge as a civil engineer. “It would allow Mr. Denno the ability to learn a little bit before jumping in and voting,” Sullivan said.

Denno joined Councilmember Scott Lawrence and Mayor Mark Korin in outvoting Wylie and Sullivan on the motion.

These three then passed a motion (made by Korin, seconded by Lawrence) to name Wangensteen and Denno as watershed board representatives and make Faherty the alternate.

Faherty told the Union this week he has informed Oak Grove staff that he has no interest in being an alternate. He is turning 80 this June and had previously informed city staff and the watershed board secretary that he planned to resign from the board at the end of 2013, Faherty said.

Faherty has now left the board after having been the voting member with the longest tenure, he said.

According to Faherty, Denno had said one reason for his interest in joining the board was out of concern for property owners and their land rights, but that does not factor into the board’s business. “We don’t enforce anything,” Faherty said.

The board studies state law, reports to the cities on all requirements and is bound by state law, he said. “A lot of times, we don’t have any choice but to make a vote the way that we do,” he said.

Although Oak Grove’s votes on the board count no more than those from the other member cities, Faherty said Oak Grove has a high stake in the proceedings as the city holds 29 percent of all land in the Upper Rum River Watershed and pays that percentage of costs which are incurred by the watershed for its state requirements.