Tug Lake District one step closer to fruition
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Editor
MERRILL – The formation of the Tug Lake District is one step closer to completion after the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors during its Tuesday, March 16 meeting passed a resolution establishing the district.
Tug Lake is located in the Town of Rock Falls in central Lincoln County, about 10 miles north of Merrill and just west of U.S. Highway 51.
“Lake districts are special purpose units of government, and include public inland lake protection and rehabilitation districts, sanitary districts, special districts, and commissions formed by local governments,” according to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UW-SP)’s website. “The purpose of a district is to maintain, protect, and improve the quality of a lake and its watershed for the mutual good of the members and the lake environment.”
Established by local governments, such as county boards or city councils, lake districts are usually based on a formal petition of lake-area property owners. They are governmental bodies with elected or appointed leaders and annual budgets funded from tax levies or special assessments, UW-SP explained.
“Districts also have some capabilities to regulate lake use, such as local boating ordinances and sewage management,” UW-SP stated. “Within a lake district, all property owners share in the cost of management activities undertaken by the district.”
District residents who are eligible voters and all property owners can vote on the district’s affairs at an annual meeting that is required to be held between May 22 and Sept. 8 of each year.
According to the resolution, a petition was filed with the Lincoln County Clerk’s office on Dec. 15, 2020 requesting the establishment of the Tug Lake District. In accordance with state statutes, the county’s Land Services Committee held a public hearing on the subject at the Lincoln County Service Center in Merrill on Jan. 14, 2021, where the committee presented its findings. The committee found that 87 of 113 possible eligible signatures were included on the petition, totaling 76.99% of residents and exceeding the 51% threshold required by state law. The committee voted 7 to 0 to recommended approval of the petition to the county board.
Mike Huth, Lincoln County’s Zoning Program Manager and Land Services Administrator, noted that the county board must appoint an initial lake district board, which would operate until the appointment of the actual board. Huth estimated the actual lake district board would be formed before September and said the initial board members are tentatively slated to be approved during the county board’s April meeting.
After District 21 Supervisor Eugene Simon voiced his concern about the absence of outside counsel’s review of the resolution, the board voted 20 to one to approve the resolution establishing the district, contingent on its review and approval by Corporation Counsel.
The Tug Lake District would join several other Lincoln County lake districts, including similar entities on Deer Lake and Lake Nokomis.