Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance
Minutes of the Board of Directors – Work Session Meeting
Thursday, February 11, 2021
4:30 p.m. via ZOOM
Directors Present: Pierre Chagnon, Ted McCague, Mike Jabot, Bruce Erickson, Jim Andrews, David Shepherd, Mike Latone and Paul (P.J.) Wendel, Jr.
Absent: Rob Yates
Staff in Attendance: Randall Perry – Alliance Executive Director and Taylor West – Alliance Project Manager.
I. Call to Order
P. Chagnon called the Board Meeting of the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance (Alliance) to order at 4:31 PM. A quorum of 8 out of 9 Alliance Board Members were present at the start of the meeting.
II. Approval of 1/14/2021 Minutes
T. McCague made a motion to accept the minutes from the 1/14/2021 Public Board Meeting. The motion was seconded by D. Shepherd and was approved unanimously.
III. Alliance Committees Update
a.) Alliance Data Analysis and Research (DAR) Committee Update
R. Perry indicated that a DAR Committee Charter had been drafted and presented to the DAR Committee for input and was now available for Board review and approval.
M. Jabot indicated that the Committee recommended simplifying the wording in the purpose section to reduce redundancies. The revised wording was incorporated into the version of the charter presented to the Board.
P. Chagnon called for a motion to approve the new DAR Committee Charter.
B. Erickson made a motion to accept the Charter as presented. The motion was seconded by D. Shepherd and carried unanimously.
R. Perry indicated that the DAR Committee also prepared a Draft Scientific Research Summary Template for the Board’s review and input. R. Perry indicated that the DAR Committee has been working hard over the last several months to draft the template, which would apply to select projects that are funded by the Alliance. R. Perry indicated that the Committee utilized a variety of institutional knowledge and experience to draft a template that would be flexible yet comprehensive and concise. R. Perry indicated that the Alliance could have research-related grantees complete this new Template as part of the reporting requirements of an Alliance-funded grant. R. Perry indicated that the DAR Committee planned to review completed draft reports and would provide feedback as needed. R. Perry indicated that the finalized reports could be shared with the Alliance Board as a top level summary of the research. R. Perry indicated that G. Bullerjahn put Bowling Green State University’s (BGSU) 2020 Research Summary into this new format as an example for the Committee and Board. R. Perry asked the Board if they had any questions or comments on the new proposed template.
M. Jabot indicated that the purpose of the template is to try and communicate research in a way that is informative yet easy to understand.
D. Shepherd indicated that he is okay with the template as long as the Committee is pleased with it.
M. Jabot indicated that the Committee could perform minor edits or seek clarifications from the researcher once draft reports are submitted. M. Jabot indicated that the Committee approves of the current Template format.
M. Jabot indicated that it would help the Committee if the Alliance Board decided which projects this Template would apply to each year. M. Jabot indicated that he feels the new Template would only be suitable to certain Alliance-funded projects.
T. McCague indicated that the Template is a work in progress and feels the Board should not proceed with a formal motion yet. T. McCague indicated that he likes the way the template is coming to life and looks forward to reviewing the sample to see how it will work for the lay person.
R. Perry indicated that an example was shared with the Board prior to the meeting via email, which could serve as a living example of the Template.
P. Chagnon indicated that the DAR Committee is trying to establish a template so the Alliance can bring the results of Alliance-supported research into a format that is digestible by the public in order to help educate the Board and Community. P. Chagnon indicated that even though the Template is a work in progress, the Committee is headed in the right direction with it.
R. Perry indicated that the Alliance is getting ready to send out grant agreements for the 2021 grant awards soon and asked the Board if they felt the new Template applies to any other Alliance funded projects in 2021 other than the Nitrogen Sensor Grant.
M. Jabot indicated that the Nitrogen Study makes sense in 2021.
M. Latone indicated that he feels the North Carolina State University Chautauqua Lake Macrophyte Survey was mainly performed to support herbicide permit applications and addresses the format needs of the NYS DEC.
P. Chagnon indicated the only 2021 project that appears to clearly fit the Template in 2021 is the Nitrogen Sensors.
R. Perry indicated that the Alliance’s Local Grants already have reporting requirements and clarified that this template would be an added layer of reporting when applicable. R. Perry thanked the Board for their input on the Template.
b.) Alliance Lake Management Committee Update
R. Perry indicated that the committee held a good meeting on Monday and that the minutes would be shared with the Board as soon as they are approved by the Committee.
B. Erickson indicated that J. Johnson gave a report on BGSU’s past and future work in Chautauqua Lake. B. Erickson indicated that Alliance Staff reported on the work that took place in 2020. B. Erickson indicated that J. Wehrfritz shared concerns regarding the Alliance’s Local Grant scoring process and the MCA Scoring Tool and asked the Committee to look into his concerns. B. Erickson indicated that he informed J. Wehrfritz that his request was outside of the scope of the Committee. B. Erickson indicated that it was a productive meeting.
M. Latone indicated that J. Johnson’s report to the Committee was informative and felt the Alliance Board would benefit from receiving the same presentation from J. Johnson.
P. Chagnon indicated that he felt there was terrific information in the presentation and gave a brief summary of the presentation to the Board.
B. Erickson indicated that he felt that an action plan should be developed on how best to report HABs on Chautauqua Lake.
T. McCague indicated that the County monitors the water quality at the Village of Lakewood’s Beach and informs the Village on beach closures due to water quality concerns.
B. Erickson indicated that the County Health Department tends to focus their sampling efforts at public beaches.
M. Latone asked if the Board has any interest in hearing J. Johnson’s presentation.
D. Shepherd indicated that he would like to hear the presentation.
B. Erickson indicated that it would be appropriate for J. Johnson to give the presentation to the Alliance Board and DAR Committee.
T. McCague indicated that it seems a report and presentation of the report should go to the DAR Committee first. T. McCague indicated that the Lake Management Committee could be involved with an action plan down the road.
P. Chagnon indicated that the presentation J. Johnson gave to the Lake Management Committee was based on the data contained in G. Bullerjahn’s BGSU Scientific Data Summary. P. Chagnon indicated he supports the idea of J. Johnson giving a presentation to the Alliance Board at a work shop meeting.
B. Erickson suggested a joint meeting between the DAR Committee and the Alliance Board to hear this presentation.
J. Andrews asked if the presentation was recorded.
R. Perry indicated that the presentation was not recorded.
J. Andrews indicated that the presentation was great and felt that the Alliance Board should hear it.
M. Jabot indicated that he is open to the idea of having a combined work session meeting between the Board and DAR Committee.
P. Chagnon indicated that he would be open to the idea of having a joint work session meeting between the DAR Committee and Alliance Board to hear J. Johnson’s presentation via Zoom.
P. Chagnon asked the Board if they would prefer to hear the presentation at the next Alliance Board Work Session meeting or at a special Board meeting.
M. Latone indicated that he would support the idea of the Board conducting a special meeting in order to hear the presentation sooner rather than later.
D. Shepherd indicated that there may be an opportunity to create a press release for the public to understand this research initiative.
P. Chagnon indicated that he supports the idea of having a special meeting sooner rather than later and asked the staff to set up a meeting between the Board and DAR Committee to hear J. Johnson’s presentation.
c.) Alliance Watershed Management Committee Update
R. Perry indicated that the Committee has not met recently. R. Perry indicated that the Alliance is working with the County to submit a grant application to the State for the County Complex Green Infrastructure Retrofit Project soon on the County’s behalf.
IV. Alliance Operating Reserve Policy
P. Chagnon indicated that the Board previously took action to establish an operating reserve based on recommendations from the Alliance’s auditor and the local Foundations. P. Chagnon indicated that he provided the Board a template from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants that had been tailored to the Alliance. P. Chagnon indicated that this policy would address the creation, review, and maintenance of an operating reserve.
T. McCague made a motion to adopt the new policy. The motion was seconded by B. Erickson and passed unanimously.
V. 2021 Alliance Consolidated Foundation Grant Update
R. Perry indicated that the Alliance secured $690,000 in funding from the participating Foundations. R. Perry indicated that award letters have been sent out based on the previously approved Board allocation. R. Perry indicated that Alliance Staff are in the process of drafting grant agreements. R. Perry indicated that the money would be disbursed once the grant agreements are approved and signed.
D. Shepherd asked about the timeline to pay the grantees.
R. Perry indicated that it is project dependent. R. Perry indicated that some projects are paid up front while others are paid in installments depending on the terms of the agreement. R. Perry indicated that once the Alliance has a signed grant agreement in hand, they are typically able to begin disbursing payment in as early as a week based on the agreement in place.
B. Erickson asked if the County Legal Department was going to review the grant agreements.
R. Perry indicated that these agreements are between the Alliance and Alliance Members utilizing Foundation funding. R. Perry indicated that the County is not involved in the Foundation grants.
B. Erickson indicated that there was friction regarding conditions that were added at the Alliance level last year.
R. Perry indicated that some of the grant agreements are more nuanced than others in terms of meeting the goals set forth by the Alliance to the Foundations.
M. Jabot indicated that the CWC was concerned that the reporting deadline was ahead of the end of the funding period of the grant and asked R. Perry if he was able to address the CWC’s concerns going into 2021.
R. Perry indicated that the Alliance is looking at options for a more iterative process in 2021. R. Perry indicated that if grants are tracking in the appropriate direction, then the Alliance will try to limit the reporting until the conclusion of the grant with the understanding that if issues arise the Alliance should know more about them sooner rather than later.
M. Jabot thanked R. Perry for looking into the CWC’s concerns.
P. Chagnon indicated that with the new approach staff are trying to meet the reporting needs of the Foundations without putting undue burden on our members.
VI. Discussion on the 2020-2021 Alliance Request for Application and Technical Review Process
R. Perry indicated that the Board received a letter from the Town of Ellery that described the Town’s request to meet with certain Alliance Committees and the Board and to adjust previously approved funding allocations for 2021 through the Consolidated Foundation Grant Process. R. Perry indicated that he also gave the Board an addendum to the letter at the request of A. Johnson, which is a summary of their requests/comments. R. Perry indicated that a set of slides prepared by the Town of Ellery and its consultant, J. Wehrfritz, was also shared with the Board and were presented to R. Perry in a prior meeting. R. Perry indicated that he wanted to present this information to the Board as it related to the Town’s desire to assess their request. R. Perry indicated that on 1/20/21, he sent an email to the Board detailing the technical review process that was conducted in the fall of 2020, which resulted in the technical scores that were shared with the Alliance Board. R. Perry indicated that the Board also took other factors pertaining to the RFA into consideration to arrive at their funding allocations.
P. Chagnon indicated that the MCA scoring tool provides valuable information to assist with the Board’s funding recommendations, but this tool is not the only piece of information that the Board considers when making funding decisions. P. Chagnon indicated that if the process or the tool can be improved, the Alliance welcomes the opportunity to improve the tool for next year. P. Chagnon indicated that the Board welcomes their input on how to improve the use of the tool, but indicated that the funding for 2021 has already been established. P. Chagnon asked the Board for their recommendation on how to proceed.
T. McCague commented on the reliance of funders on the Alliance to review, prioritize, and recommend funding for projects.
D. Shepherd indicated that from a foundation perspective, funders are required to exercise adequate due diligence when making funding decisions, and that responsibility is passed to the Alliance in their role in the consolidated grant process.
B. Erickson indicated that all grant applications were measured by the same process and went through multiple layers of review and aggregation. He indicated that it is fair to use the same tool against everyone equally.
J. Andrews indicated that the tool has been successful and has helped secure more funding via foundations over the past years.
M. Latone indicated that the Board already reached its decision on the funding for this year.
T. McCague reiterated prior comments about seeking possible improvements on the use of the tool in the future.
After discussion, the Board decided to send a letter to the Town indicating that the 2021 funding allocations would not be changed. The Board did not elect to engage any Alliance Committees on the matter.
VII. Discussion on “Friends of the Alliance” as defined in By-Law Article 1, Section 1.4
P. Chagnon indicated that the Alliance has fielded several requests for the Board to consider having “friends of the corporation”. P. Chagnon read section 1.4 of the By-Laws to the Board. P. Chagnon indicated that the Alliance has grown as an organization since the By-Laws were created and indicated that the Board hosts public meetings where anyone can attend. P. Chagnon indicated that organizational communications such as minutes are shared widely with the public. P. Chagnon indicated that the general public has been treated as “friends of the corporation” in a variety of ways, but indicated that the organization had not designated anyone as an official “friend of the corporation”. P. Chagnon asked the Board if they would like to consider this option going forward. P. Chagnon indicated that according to the By-Laws, having a “friend” of the corporation would not necessarily allow them to have a Board seat. P. Chagnon indicated that in order for someone to be eligible for a seat on the Alliance Board, typically they would have to be an employee or an officer of a member.
R. Perry read part of section 2.2 of the By-Laws to the Board, which describes the number and qualifications of the Board. The concept of “friends” was discussed by the Board as it relates to the possible benefits that may be granted by the Board if the “friends” option were activated by the Board.
D. Shepherd indicated that the current practice of allowing the public to have access to our public meetings and access to the floor may provide most everything that might have been envisioned by friends. D. Shepherd indicated that the concept of friends may be redundant at this stage given the open access currently granted to the public. P. Chagnon indicated that he could seek additional information on the rationale of certain member requests for the Board to consider the “friends” clause. Further discussion on the matter is expected at the April 2021 work session.
VIII. Discussion on Annual Alliance-Partnered Funding Allocation (2018-Present)
P. Chagnon indicated that this has been requested by some of our members to understand how our funding has been aligning with the recommendations in the 5-Year Strategy.
R. Perry indicated that the Alliance keeps track of all Alliance-partnered projects, which includes any projects where the Alliance contributes match funding, is engaged in grant writing and administration, or acts as a pass-through or grant making entity. R. Perry gave a presentation to the Alliance Board detailing how the Alliance-partnered funding allocations have compared with the guidance in the 5-Year Strategy.
P. Chagnon indicated that there tends to be year-by-year variations that are driven by the availability of State grants, timing of the work to be done, and by the project proposals submitted. P. Chagnon indicated that that the Alliance doesn’t fund certain categories if the Alliance doesn’t receive grant applications that are applicable. P. Chagnon indicated that the Lake and watershed allocations are generally pretty close when looking at the 4-year average and comparing it to the recommended allocations in the 5-Year Strategy.
M. Jabot indicated that those who are questioning the recent allocations may not be taking the State grant allocations into consideration.
B. Erickson indicated that he agreed with M. Jabot. B. Erickson indicated that he feels a distinction should be made between capital and operational expenses because the recently acquired skimmers represent a large chunk of funding that isn’t directly applicable to the lake over the reporting period because they have not yet been implemented and represent a capital expenditure.
B. Erickson indicated that the Strategy is a guideline, not a rule, and that it has to be adapted over time.
P. Chagnon indicated that this presentation would be shared with the individuals who have been requesting the information.
IX. The Jefferson Project Update
P. Chagnon indicated that The Jefferson Project has been consumed with the harmful algal bloom event in Lake George and have not provided us with a recommended work plan and a budget for 2021.
D. Shepherd indicated that they did a great job with the road salt presentation and indicated that he and T. McCague were in attendance.
M. Jabot indicated that C. Pinkoski is thinking about ways that the ideas and BMPs referenced in the presentation could be implemented here in Chautauqua County.
T. McCague asked if anyone is measuring the salinity in Chautauqua Lake.
R. Perry indicated that the vertical profilers, which were deployed on Chautauqua Lake this summer and fall collected chloride data. R. Perry indicated that there are also historical data from the State of the Lake Report where chloride was tracked at different points in time. R. Perry indicated that there are some other reports that have data available.
B. Erickson indicated that there was some salt-related data collected years ago around the bridge.
P. Chagnon indicated that The Jefferson Project has done a lot of work on and around Lake George regarding salinity.
D. Shepherd indicated that the salinity of the groundwater was impacting some private wells around Lake George and asked if the County DOH had any data on salinity in private wells.
P. Chagnon indicated that there is a dataset on private wells, but it does not include salinity.
T. McCague asked if there was any salinity data on the drinking water aquifers.
P. Chagnon indicated that he was unsure if there was salinity data collected from the drinking water aquifers.
X. Alliance Communications Coordinator Job Posting Update
R. Perry indicated that the job posting went out on 12/11/20 and had a deadline of 1/22/21 for applications. R. Perry indicated that he received 23 complete applications from interested job seekers. R. Perry indicated that the applicants had a range of backgrounds. R. Perry indicated that he notified all of the applicants that their applications were received. R. Perry indicated that based on his initial review of submitted materials only, he identified approximately 7 of the 23 who appeared to roughly fall in a first tier of applicants. R. Perry indicated that the majority of the candidates within this tier ended up living within the State or nearby region with a few coming from outside the State. R. Perry indicated that approximately 12 of the candidates fell roughly into tier two and appear to be qualified and could either fall up or down depending on how the Board chooses to move forward. R. Perry indicated that approximately 4 candidates fell into the third tier and don’t appear to be a good fit at this time. R. Perry indicated that he was pleased with the number of potentially qualified candidates the Alliance received. R. Perry indicated that he is interested in the Board’s thoughts on how to proceed.
B. Erickson indicated that he felt the Alliance should not fill the position vacancy at this time based on uncertainties surrounding State and other funding sources.
J. Andrews indicated that the organization has grown a lot over the last 5 years and felt that the organization would be taking a step backwards if they chose not to fill this vacancy.
T. McCague indicated that the Board could redefine the job function if needed. T. McCague indicated that the times are tough and agreed with B. Erickson that funding from certain areas is uncertain. T. McCague indicated that the Board Chair is also performing some of the general work needed to keep the organization moving forward. T. McCague indicated that the amount of work currently on the table supports the need for another staff member. T. McCague indicated that hiring another staff member would reduce the amount of work the Board Chair has to do.
D. Shepherd indicated that this would be an opportunity to serve the public better in terms of communicating lake and watershed related topics.
B. Erickson asked if this could be done by a part-time consultant for less cost.
D. Shepherd indicated that this could be a possibility.
B. Erickson indicated that now is not the time to spend money as revenues for a variety of different organizations are down.
P. Chagnon thanked B. Erickson for his comments.
M. Jabot indicated that there are issues regarding the need to spend money to move the organization forward under the current and predicted future financial challenges. M. Jabot indicated that at times, money should be spent in order to move an organization forward.
P. Chagnon asked R. Perry to give the Board an evaluation of the strongest candidates describing their strengths and attributes. P. Chagnon also asked R. Perry to explain to the Board how this position would be utilized. P. Chagnon indicated that the Board could use this information to inform their potential future decision.
B. Erickson suggested that the Executive Committee handle the process from here.
P. Chagnon indicated that the Alliance will proceed along those lines and thanked B. Erickson for his suggestion.
No items were discussed under “Other.”
B. Erickson made a motion to adjourn the February 11, 2021 Board meeting. The motion was seconded by T. McCague and was passed unanimously. The meeting adjourned at 6:21 PM.