An alternative way to connect to the Net

For those cottages that have relied on Verizon’s DSL for Internet connectivity, the story seems to be getting worse every year. But there’s an alternative that so far has been working well for us.

The problem

DSL uses existing phone lines to provide Internet connectivity. This means the access provider doesn’t have to install special cables to connect users. But telephones lines are far from the optimum medium for the Internet: DSL is routinely advertised as providing speeds of 15Mbps (megabits per second) and sometimes more, which is below the FCC’s definition of “broadband” as at least 25Mbps. That’s why Verizon refers to DSL as “High Speed Internet,” as marketers will. Still, 15Mbps is plenty for browsing the Web and streaming music.

Except as Verizon DSL users at the Lake, we have not ever gotten anywhere close to 15Mbps. We’ve routinely limped along with 1.5Mbps, and on a very good day, 2.5Mbps. For this we paid Verizon about $70/month, which included a landline. During the winter when we suspended service, we paid Verizon about $30/month for the privilege of not using their service.

Then this summer our connection dropped to 0.6Mbps and lower. Our upload speeds, which are always lower than download speeds, dropped to 0. If more than one person was using the Web, the connection became unusable. Verizon checked our lines and declared that everything was just fine, and 0.6Mbps was totally within the range we’d contracted for. And, no, there was no higher tier that we could pay for in order to get minimally viable connectivity.

It has been widely reported, and not always denied, that Verizon wants out of the DSL business.  So chalk it up to my cynicism that I think it plausible that Verizon has been lowering DSL speeds in order to chase people off of their service.

If so, it’s worked on us.

A Solution

We were on the verge of going with a satellite dish solution when my nephew suggested a device like a MoFi SIM4 Gateway. I know it sounds technical, but the idea is simple.

On a hill on the northwest side of the Lake you can see a lonely AT&T cellphone tower. A device like the ones from MoFi sends signals to and from that tower just the way an AT&T cellphone does. But the MoFi device only uses the connection to send and receive Internet data. It’s like a cellphone that you only use for data, not for phone calls.

The MoFi device also creates a wifi hotspot so anyone with the password can connect their laptop, tablet, Alexa, Google Home or any other wifi-enabled device to it, and then through the MoFi to the Internet.

AT&T sells a device that does the same thing: the Nighthawk. It costs about half as much –. the MoFi device costs $315 – but the the MoFi has far more powerful antennas for connecting to the cell tower.

Setting up the MoFi device entailed choosing a name for our wifi hotspot, and an administrative password and a user password. The box itself is about 3 x 4 inches  and is mounted indoors with a power supply that plugs into a normal outlet.

If you decide to get the MoFi, you’ll also need a data plan; this is like a normal cell phone plan except you won’t get a phone connection. There are some issues with AT&T’s own data plan, though. Most important, it limits how much data you can use per month. After 10 gigabytes, AT&T throttles the connection for the rest of that month. If you have a few people doing the sorts of things people do with the Internet these days, you may hit that limit.

So we instead decided to get a data plan from Ubifi.net. In fact, we bought our MoFi router through them; it’s the same price but they pre-install the sim card and configure the device for you. Ubifi has three advantages over AT&T’s data plan.

First, it is unlimited. Use all the data you want.

Second, the support people I spoke with were great. There’s no big phone tree to navigate, and no scripts the support people are required to speak from. The support folks were friendly and super competent.

Third, while the per month charge is $90, and thus substantially more than AT&T’s data plan and even more than Verizon’s DSL + landline charge, Ubifi lets you suspend your service for free. No monthly charges at all. They can do this because you don’t actually suspend your service. You cancel it. To re-start it, you pay $30 for a new sim card and you’re good to go. This makes the annual cost more attractive for those of us who are summer residents.

Our experience with the Mofi so far has been good. The unit arrived in three business days as promised. The Ubifi support folks said that while the bandwidth depends upon how strong the reception is, their users typically get 15-40Mbps. We are getting 15-25Mbps, depending on factors we don’t know and can’t measure. That’s about 25 times the bandwidth we were getting from Verizon. (Speedtest.net is reportedly a reliable way of testing your bandwidth.)

So far so good.

(Note: I have no connection to any of the companies mentioned here.)

Lake Buel District Board Meeting

Lake Buel District Board Meeting May 7, 2019
28 Seven Arts Road, Monterey

Members present: Kyle Pierce, Chris Hassett, Mark Amstead, Wayne Dolby; and Peter Hagen by phone.

Meeting was called to order by Pete Hagen at 7:01 PM.

A motion was made, seconded and so voted to approve the minutes of March 12th as prepared.

Old Business:

  •   The Board members inquired if there are any issues with hiring Mr. David Ziegler, Weed

    Harvester operator. Mr. Amstead stated that Mr. Ziegler will have his insurance in place within a week, and is ready to begin work. Mr. Ziegler has a location that the harvester can be stored, but no garage. Mr. Amstead will work on drawing up a contract for Mr. Ziegler. Mr. Ziegler will start work around Memorial Day weekend depending upon if Mr. Leigh Tryon is able to put the harvester into the lake.

  •   Mr. Hagen mentioned that he has spoken with Mr. Mike Germain regarding on how the results of test the bacteria will be handled; Mr. Germain said that the results will be public records. Mr. Hassett asked if this testing had been done before; Mr. Hagen stated that he was told it was never done before. Mrs. Pierce mentioned that she has spoken with six other people and they said no other testing has been done. Mr. Hagen mentioned that he has spoken to DEP and they have completed testing in the lake back in 2002. Mr. Hagen will meet with Mr. Germain to follow up. It was noted that testing is only done when the public is using the lake. Mr. Dolby will speak with Kushner to see if they do lake testing. Mr. Hassett will contact Camp Half Moon and see if they do lake testing.
  •   Warrant Package FY20: The Board reviewed & discussed the warrant package which includes all articles so that the Board can be ready to answer any questions at the upcoming Annual Meeting.
  •   Mr. Chris Tryon is working on the permitting on the outlet clean out.
  •   Mr. Hagen mentioned that he’ll continue to work on the email list.
  •   Mr. Hassett will laminate the map area of the lake to keep on the harvester.
  •   The Board discussed purchasing oil booms. Mr. Amstead mentioned that one should be

    purchased for the harvester.
    A motion was made, seconded and so voted to adjourn at 7:43 PM.

    Next meeting is scheduled for May 25th at United Church of Christ Meeting House, 449 Main Road, Monterey. The Board members will schedule a work meeting for May 21st at Mrs. Pierce residence.

page1image32953408

Respectfully submitted, Kathy Chretien, Clerk

How to Prevent Algae blooms on Lake Buel!

How to prevent algal blooms at your lake
By Sara Laux
Published: May 10, 2018

SHARE
algal-blooms-in-lake Photo by C N Elliott/Shutterstock
An oxygen-starved area of almost 165,000 square kilometres in the Gulf of Oman is now the world’s largest marine “dead zone.” Incapable of supporting life, dead zones can occur naturally in deep water but are becoming more common in coastal waters because of algal blooms that use up the water’s oxygen when they die and decompose. Algal blooms, meanwhile, are increasing as agricultural runoff, containing chemical fertilizers like phosphorus, contaminates water sources.

Algal blooms aren’t just an ocean problem. At one point in the 1960s, Lake Erie was thought to be dying because of extensive blooms, which led to 1972’s Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the U.S. and Canada. And while phosphorus levels dropped in Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes in the 1980s, rising lake temperatures caused by climate change mean algae growth is now a problem in the Great Lakes once again.

Dead zones aren’t the only problem with algal blooms. Some species of algae are toxic to animals and humans, affecting fish and bird populations as well as making swimming and fishing dangerous. Cyanobacteria, which is called blue-green algae but is actually a photosynthesizing bacteria, can contaminate water supplies and cause headaches, fever, nausea, vomiting and, in serious cases, severe liver damage.

Algae doesn’t necessarily mean poor water quality, but it can be a problem. So what’s the key to reducing algae on your lake? The most effective thing to do is reduce the number of algae-feeding nutrients, especially phosphorus, that make it into the water. Here are some tips to keep your lake in tip-top shape.

Be careful with fertilizer

Sure, you want a nice green lawn and healthy plants — but that fertilizer you spread in your garden also encourages algae to bloom. It’s best to avoid fertilizer altogether if you’re close to a water source — plant native plants instead, which are well-adapted to the environment and don’t require special maintenance. If you must fertilize, try and find a phosphorus-free product, and reduce run-off by applying it when there’s no rain in the forecast.

And don’t think natural fertilizer like manure or compost is any better than a chemical version, anything that’s going to make your garden plants grow is going to make algae grow as well.It’s best to avoid fertilizers generally.

Check your septic system

Just as manure encourages algae to grow, so does human sewage. (Plus, gross.) A leaky septic system can easily contaminate water sources, so make sure you keep your septic tank well maintained and be on the lookout for cracks and fissures.

It also goes without saying that you shouldn’t, ahem, go number 2 anywhere close to a water source, and don’t allow your pets to poop close to the water either. Even if you didn’t run the risk of making people sick, you don’t want to give algae any extra nutrients.

Don’t use a garburator

Compost is great for gardens — which means it’s great for algae, too. Garburators, or in-sink garbage disposals, deposit food waste into the water system, which can lead to “nutrient loading” into lakes through water treatment plants. Land composting is a much better option for kitchen waste.

Combat shoreline erosion

An eroded shoreline, meaning few plants or trees, means more run-off from the land into your lake. Make sure your shoreline is planted with native species to help keep its integrity intact and run-off out of the lake, and don’t cut down vegetation that’s already there.

Don’t lather up near water sources

Even if you’re using biodegradable or organic soap, it’s best to keep it far from water sources. Use a bucket or other container for your wash water, then bury your rinse water so bacteria in the soil can break down any contaminants. It sounds like a pain, but it’s better than washing in slimy, smelly algae.

Be careful with your detergents

Canada banned phosphates in household cleaning products in 2010, but if you’re using an old bottle of dish detergent, you could still be dumping algae-feeding nutrients into your lake. Make sure you’re using phosphate-free cleaners and soaps.

Minimize impervious surfaces close to the water where possible

The goal in preventing nutrient-rich runoff from making it into lakes and other water sources is making sure it’s absorbed by the earth, which is a lot harder to do if you’ve paved right up to the edge of your shoreline. Ideally, you’ll have a nice, natural shoreline, complete with plenty of native plants, around your lake to make sure run-off stays on land.

Lake Buel District Board Meeting — January 2, 2019

Lake Buel District Board Meeting
January 2, 2019
62 Lake Side Road, New Marlborough
Members present: Kyle Pierce, Chris Hassett, Mark Amstead, Wayne Dolby, & Peter Hagen.
Meeting was called to order by Pete Hagen at 7:01PM.

A motion was made, seconded and so voted to approve the minutes of November 13th as amended.
The Board reviewed mail and bills:
 Tryon Construction bills for weed harvesting & maintenance.
 Town of New Marlborough Real Estate FY19 Tax bills.
 Berkshire Wildlife bill for breached dams and beaver removed.
 Reimbursement bill to Kyle Pierce – memorial flowers.
 The Board reviewed and discussed the financial report submitted by Treasurer.

New Business:
 Pete and Kathy met with representative from MIIA regarding the insurance. Pete mentioned that MIIA will not raise the values. Chris will contact the representative with a few additional questions that need to be answered.
 LAPA – Kyle and Pete attended the meeting which was held in Pittsfield, most of the discussion at the meeting was regarding zebra mussels and what was the State doing about them. Kyle will contact DCR or LAPA to see about obtaining testing reports.

Old Business:
 Pete mentioned that the two order of conditions (NOI’s) with the Town of New Marlborough’s Conservation Commission have been approved for three more years. Pete also mentioned that he inquired about debris in the outlet and was told that a new NOI would need to be filed per Mark Stinson, DEP circuit rider who was in attendance at the Commission’s meeting. Mark Amstead will contact Chris Tryon to see if he can complete a new NOI for the District. Mark will also contact Chuck Wyman to see if the District can access the lake through Wyman’s property. Kyle will contact Alison Dixon to see if she is interested in doing an assessment in the outlet area which is about 1100 feet.
 No news on the fireworks as of yet was reported on by Chris.
 Pete mentioned that he hasn’t had any progress on the email list.
Harvester/Boom: Mark reported that Mike Ordyna is unable to continue working and Tryon wants to discontinue the contract with the District.
Audit: Kyle received one company name for completing an audit. Pete will contact the company, Scanlon & Associates certified public accountants.
Warrant Package: The Board worked on FY20 budget for article #5 General Government and the other articles for Annual Town Meeting. Mark will work on the cover sheet letter.

A motion was made, seconded and so voted to adjourn at 9:03 PM.
Next meeting is scheduled for March 12th at Wayne Dolby residence – 28 Corashire Rd.

Respectfully submitted,
Kathy Chretien, Clerk

Lake Buel District Board Meeting

November 13, 2018

28 Seven Arts Road, Monterey

Members present: Kyle Pierce, Chris Hassett, Mark Amstead, Wayne Dolby, & Peter Hagen by phone.

Meeting was called to order by Pete Hagen at 7PM.

A motion was made, seconded and so voted to approve the minutes of July 21st as amended.

The Board reviewed mail and bills:

MIIA: Property & Casualty Credit ($190).
Tyron Construction bills for weed harvesting & maintenance.
Stor-it-All, Inc – Sheffield.
Berkshire Fireworks.
United States Postal Service – PO Box rent.
The Main Street America Group – Bond for Tax Collector.
The Board reviewed and discussed the financial report submitted by Treasurer.

New Business:

Mark has reviewed the maintenance binder for the Harvester – not all information was clear, will need to contact the company.
Mike has replaced hoses that are necessary and will do inspections of the harvester.
Mark is up for re-election in May, 2019.
Kyle mentioned that Dave Logan has passed on, who was a former board member.
Chris has picked up 3 storage containers from Dave Logan’s residence. Chris will keep the smaller container at this time and the two bigger containers will go into the Stor-it-all unit.

Old Business:

Pete will attend the December meeting of the New Marlborough Conservation Commission to extend the two order of conditions and Pete will also discuss the issue of debris in the outlet.
Pete mentioned that he is still working on the email list, which a google group can handle.
Mark mentioned that a valuable worker is leaving Berkshire Fireworks and there might be difficulties obtaining permitting next year.
Kyle has spoken with the Monterey’s Town Accountant and Select Board Chair regarding audit and they will look to see if anyone is interested in completing an audit for the District. Kyle will continue to work on this.

Harvester/Boom:

Mark will contact the Monterey Fire Department about a boom.
Truck/Harvester is parked behind Lee’s house.

5 Year Plan:

Pete has talked with Steve Snyder regarding how they have handle things at Lake Garfield and will keep investigating on how to proceed.

Outlet/Weeds:

Weeds are still growing into October; need to get has many weeds removed so they don’t turn into silt.
Board agreed to extend the harvesting three more weeks at the end of the summer (five work days total about $512 a day).
Weeds are getting aggressive in the outlet.

The Board worked on FY20 budget for article #5 General Government.

A motion was made, seconded and so voted to adjourn at 8:40 PM.

Next meeting is scheduled for January 2nd at Peter Hagen residence – 62 Lakeside Rd.

Respectfully submitted,

Kathy Chretien, Clerk

Lake Buel District Board Meeting July 21, 2018

Lake Buel District Board Meeting

July 21, 2018

28 Seven Arts Road, Monterey

Members present: Chairman Peter Hagen, Kyle Pierce, Chris Hassett, Mark Amstead, & Wayne Dolby.

Meeting was called to order by Pete Hagen at 7:05PM.

A motion was made, seconded and so voted to approve the minutes of June 26th as amended.

The Board reviewed mail and bills:
MIIA: FY19 professional liability coverage – automobile, special property (Board inquired if they should increase the values – Chris will contact MIIA to review the coverage. Kathy will contact MIIA also to verify that the board members have liability insurance).
Tyron Construction bills for weed harvesting & maintenance.
Berkshire Wildlife Solution – beavers & breached dam.
Napa Auto Parts – parts for the weed harvester.
Patriot Properties, Inc – for software and support- tax collector program.
Berkshire Bank – fee schedule – effective 9/7/18.
New Marlborough Tax Bills – 4 pieces of property.

Complaints from Homeowners:

Kyle has received a complaint Jerry Teplitz, a longtime resident, regarding the weed cutting at his property edge and Kyle has spoke to Mike Ordyna, who said that the issue is out of the district scope. Pete mentioned that he had also spoken with Jerry regarding this issue and informed him that the area in question is the property owners own responsibility to do. It was noted that Mike Ordyna mentioned that the weed harvester machine has broken down twice so far.

Weed Control:

Both Wayne and Mark haven’t had any issues with their boats/canoes in the lake and the lake seems to be clear.

Mark mentioned that 14 to 17 loads of weeds are taken out each week with the weed harvester, once taken out the loads are brought to Rick Mielke’s and Lyman Thompson. The board mentioned that more cutting has occurred this year then prior years. It was noted that any weeds left behind then falls the bottom of the lake. Mark will contact Mike Ordyna about cutting in certain areas and be more aggressive.
Audit:

Pete is still working on hiring a firm to complete an audit of the books.

5 Year Plan:

Pete has done some research on suction harvesting (Piranha Mini Dredge). Pete mentioned that there is two possible ways it can be accomplished:
Rent a machine, which costs about $2500 per day with 1 operator.
Purchase machine which costs about $10,000.
The board reviewed and discussed Pete’s suggestions are will look into this some more and the process of it, Pete will contact someone from Lake Garfield as they have done suction harvesting. It was noted that the bag that the machine uses is very expensive.

Emergency Plan Harvester & Repair:

Mark is working on completing a sign which will be laminated and go on the weed harvester machine. Mike Ordyna will work on the paddle wheels.

Beavers:

It was mentioned that Eric Ives will only complete work once a permit is in place; he has currently trapped one beaver and breached dams (Eric opens the dams are much as possible).

New Business:

Pete mentioned that he has attended the New Marlborough Conservation Commission meeting in July regarding the two orders of conditions for the NOI’s. Pete said that the Commission is in agreement with letting the District continue to do the work. Pete will attend the next Commission’s meeting for clarification.

The Board reviewed and discussed financial reports submitted by treasurer.

Pete mentioned that Pete Scala has a small weed harvester machine that is used around Windemere Lake.

Old Business:

Pete mentioned that he hasn’t gotten too far with the email list and will continue to work on it.

Pete mentioned that he has done some review on Google for grant money for dredging projects.

Chris stated that he has been in contact with Judy regarding the fireworks. Judy stated that things are on track and she has completed the permits, but hasn’t heard from Shawn Tryon as of yet. Mark sent a message to Shawn and quickly received a response from Shawn that the permit has gone through in his office and was sent to the State and should be completed by the State by August 23rd. Judy also mentioned to Chris that the State has been doing inspections of prior events and is it possible to have a boat out patrolling when the fireworks display is occurring. (State would like to keep citizens a distance away when display is occurring). Chris agreed to be available to complete the patrolling.

Kyle mentioned that she has not been able to complete the assessment for the Housatonic Valley Association yet. Kyle said that the area that she would be assessing is two miles of the Konkapot River starting at Adsit Crosby Rd. Kyle also mentioned that Sam Mills has taken two trips down the river and the area has some vegetation.

Pete has mentioned that he has researched purchasing an oil boom, which cost about $1,000 a piece. The other Board members inquired if one is needed and would the boom be placed on the weed harvester.

A motion was made, seconded and so voted to adjourn at 9:36 PM.

Next meeting is scheduled for November 13th at Kyle Pierce residence.

Respectfully submitted,

Kathy Chretien, Clerk

Lake Buel District Meeting Minutes May 9, 2018

Lake Buel District Board Meeting

May 9, 2018

28 Seven Arts Road, Monterey

Members present:  Kyle Pierce, Chris Hassett, Mark Amstead.  Peter Hagen, Chairman by phone.

Meeting was called to order by Chairman, Mr. Hagen at 7PM.

A motion was made, seconded and so voted to approve previous minutes.

Mr. Hagen stated that Ms. Kathy Chretien has graciously offered to take the minutes of the meeting.

The board reviewed the financial report and noticed that the outlet maintenance of over budget by $621.00 and discussed the finance for the harvesting.  It seems to cost $2400.00 a week for cutting and the board believes that the there is enough in the budget to get through this fiscal budget.  After review a motion was made, seconded and so voted to accept the treasurer/collector report.

The board discussed presenting Ms. Mielke with a gift and card for all of her years of service.  It was decided that the members would purchase a gift card to the Old Mill in the amount of $200.00.  Mr. Amstead will contact Ms. Mielke to make sure the church will be booked and available for the annual meeting, and to make sure there will be refreshments provided.

It was noted that 20 proxies have be received as of today.  Mr. Hassett will check with the camps, and a few others to make sure they get their proxies in.  Mr. Hagen will contact Attorney Brewer to confirm his attendances at the annual meeting and to see if what covers the budget amount is it just by the hour or just a retainer.

Mr. Hagen mentioned that not there has not been much response on the email list request that was put on the cover letter of warrant.  It was decide the same statement will go out with the tax bills.

The board discussed the five year plan for the dam.  Mr. Amstead has been in contact with Mr. Chris Tyron regarding submitted a plan/proposal.  It was discussed that in the past the board has received a quote from White Engineering, & Stockman and Associates.  The board will look into getting quotes from others.

The board reviewed a letter of support for funding for Lake Garfield which will be sent to Massachusetts Department of Environmental Conservation.  Mrs. Pierce mentioned that Mr. Dennis Lynch does grant writing and has assisted with drafting this letter.  Mr. Hassett has no issues with endorsing the letter and he feels that it would not be a good idea not to endorse the letter; it a matter of being a good neighbor.  After the review of the letter a motion was made, seconded and so voted to approve Mrs. Pierce signing the letter of behalf of the board.

Mrs. Pierce mentioned that she has been asked to join a committee – Municipal Vulnerability preparedness in relation to how climate control is changing and there will be a workshop on Saturday, May 19th from 9AM – 3PM run by Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.  Mrs. Pierce also mentioned that they would like 30 to 40 people to attend the workshop.  Mrs. Pierce will report back to the board after the workshop.

The board noted that the special permit that was submitted to the New Marlborough Board of Selectmen on commercial greenhouses (cannabis) was withdrawn without prejudice.

Beaver activity is already quite busy, Mr. Hagen stated, he has already submitted a beaver/trapping permit with the New Marlborough Board of Health. Mr. Eric Ives was already at the lake and noted that there more beavers and the lake level is up.  It seems like it will be a busy season coming up.  It was noted that the outlet is an issue and the inlet will probable need some attention.  Mr. Hagen mentioned that he had received a call from a property owner regarding this issue.  Mr. Hagen had meet with the property owner and area is in question is the property owner own responsibility to obtaining a permit.  Mr. Hagen also told the owner he would go with her to assist obtaining a beaver/trapping permit in Monterey, but he has not heard back from her.

The board discussed if they should increase the outlet maintenance at the annual meeting.

The board discussed having a forensic audit on the books, since it is a proper procedure thing to do when a change of Tax Collector/Treasurer.  Mr. Hagen thinks the cost might be $5,000.00 to $6,000.00.  The board discussed how to pay for the audit and will bring this item up at the annual meeting.  Mr. Hagen will look into this.

Mr. Ives has requested a copy of the Notice of Intent that has been filed with the New Marlborough Conservation Commission.  Mr. Amstead will forward a copy to him.

New Business:

Mr. Hassett & Mr. Amstead went to Mr. Dave Logan’s and took three boxes of records.  The board mentioned that they have a storage unit for the District records.  Mrs. Pierce will check to see if there are any records at the Monterey Town Hall.

Mr. Mike Ordyna has been in contact with Mr. Amstead about the Candee’s property.  Mr. Ordyna is seeking permission get some work done with the trees/brushes.  Access is needed for the canal.  It was noted that someone will contact the Obrien crew to do some work in this area.  The board discussed this issue will be and has decided that since it’s part of the lake and they pay Lake Buel taxes then it something needs to be done.  This issue will be brought up at the annual meeting under new business.

Mrs. Pierce mentioned about attending LAPA west – which talked about dredging and how you could do certain amount every year without a permit.  It was noted to check the Town of Monterey website under the Board of Selectmen for a click for 604B proposal.  It was also mentioned that the State has been checking the catch basin and the cost of each one is $150,000.00.

Mr. Hagen will contact Mr. Ed Weismann regarding seeking grants for dredging.

A motion was made, seconded and so voted to adjourn at 8:24 PM.

Next meeting is scheduled May 26th h at Monterey Church.