It's a project one councilwoman said was listed on the 2005 Master Plan for Morristown, and a project she said must be completed, and soon.
Alison Deeb brought up the issue of dredging Foote's Pond, located on James Street adjacent to the , at the April 12 council meeting at Town Hall. Deeb, the lone Republican on the council who is seeking another term this year, lives in the nearby Windmill Pond development.
"It's a gateway to Morristown," she said when explaining her reasons for wanting to prevent the pond from "meadowing," a natural process that occurs when a landlocked body of water returns to swampland. "I don't want any more meadow grass to grow on this issue. I would like some action tonight."
According to a 2008 article in the Newark Star-Ledger, a $450,000 renovation project was completed that year on the 14-acre site, donated by the Foote family in the 1940s. Renovations included the addition of new pathways, benches and native plant life. It did not, however, include dredging of the pond, which would have made it deeper, due to the town's inability to cover the $700,000 price tag at the time, according to the article.
Deeb said the cost to dredge is considerable, at an estimate of over $1 million. She said it was the town's intention to dredge the pond as early as 2005, and that the "meadowing" process takes about eight-to-10 years, leaving just a few more years for action to be taken. Deeb suggested several options at the meeting, including privitization of the pond in order to possibly have a contract negotiated at a cheaper cost than what may cost a municipality, as well as the possibility of establishing a citizens' coalition, in order to see the project through.
Mayor Timothy Dougherty, as a fellow Fourth Ward resident, said he agreed the project was important, but asked that Deeb "give us a little bit of time to look at this."
Councilwoman Rebecca Feldman, who as an Independent also is seeking re-election this year, noted there are other bodies of water that may also need to be looked at, including Speedwell Lake and Burnham Pond.
"I appreciate the mention of other waterways," Deeb said, "However, the agenda tonight is on Foote's Pond. To me, the other waterways are a separate matter."
"Please, with all due respect, you've got to give us time–you just put this on the table," the mayor said.
When asked if it would be environmentally sound to just let the pond return its natural state, Morristown Office of Sustainability head Paul Miller said one needed to look at several things, including the environmental, economic and social impact that would bring.
"The cost (is a lot)," he said. "I think we need to look at this issue carefully." Miller also was in favor of a citizens group getting involved, saying, "The neighborhood has the most benefit to gain. Taking on the work load makes sense."
In terms of environmental impact, Deeb said that allowing the pond to "meadow" could have impacts elsewhere nearby, including the actual Windmill Pond, which her development is named after. The lack of a waterbody at Foote's could cause Windmill to "meadow," as well. "Eco-systems are relative," she said. "They impact each other."
For now, the administration said they will look further into the matter, while Deeb waits for answers and action. "To me, this is a critical environmental issue," she said. "It should be maintained as a pond."