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April 26, 2013
The 4-poster debate moves across the channel to North Haven
Despite requests from residents for 4-poster tick control devices like those tested and now in use on Shelter Island, the neighboring village of North Haven won’t be getting them in the current fiscal year. There’s no money in the budget, according to Mayor Laura Nolan, and neither New York State nor Suffolk County are offering support.
North Haven was the control site when Shelter Island participated in a three-year experimental study of the 4-posters that was conducted by Cornell University and the Cornell Cooperative Extension and funded by the state, county, town and private citizens.
Mayor Nolan told a packed board room of about 40 people at North Haven Village Hall Tuesday night that aside from the financial problem, the board also wanted to review a lot of new information it had received from Vincent Palmer, special assistant to the commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; and Dan Gilrein, entomologist with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Suffolk County.
The Village Board wants time to review the new information and look further at the costs.
Shelter Island Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty has been in touch with Ms. Nolan and said at a recent Town Board work session that the Island had extra 4-posters stockpiled that it could lease to the village. During the three-year trial on Shelter Island, 60 units were deployed, but the town has only 19 currently in use since it took over funding the program this year.
It originally deployed 20 but one had to removed from Gardiner’s Bay Country Club because of interference with the golf course and the town doesn’t yet have DEC permission to place it in another area on club grounds.
In a nearly two-hour discussion Tuesday, Mr. Palmer told the Village Board and audience that the DEC “is inclined to issue a license to the village if North Haven asks for it.”
That’s not what Supervisor Dougherty said at the July 31 Town Board work session that he had been told by the mayor. He said he understood North Haven had been unable to obtain DEC consent.
“There’s obviously some entrenched opposition within the DEC,” Mr. Dougherty said at the time.
But Mr. Palmer said on Tuesday the DEC had not acted on the proposal because the village had submitted no application.
North Haven resident Josephine DeVincenzi, who has surfaced as an outspoken advocate of the 4-poster program there, invited Mr. Palmer, Mr. Gilrein and Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (D-Sag Harbor) to Tuesday’s meeting to explain the science and bolster her argument that tick-borne diseases are an epidemic that must be tackled. She also has said that ticks are rampant in North Haven, something that other residents there have commented on as well.
“We need action now,” Dr. DeVincenzi said at the meeting. And when the mayor said the village faces “serious funding issues” that would prohibit financing the program in the current fiscal year, Dr. DeVincenzi argued that the money would be found if it were needed to tackle an accident or impending disaster.
Trustee Jeffrey Sanders said that the Village Board doesn’t know the cost involved or where potential funding sources might be.
While acknowledging that there are no numbers to prove its efficacy from either the Suffolk County Department of Health Services or the state Health Department, Mr. Palmer said research shows that where there is a decline in ticks, there’s a corresponding decline in tick-borne diseases. And he said there’s no evidence that ground water is being affected by the tickicide, permethrin. On the other hand, places where broadcast sprays are being used to treat yards, there are traces of poisons on surface waters.
Mr. Gilrein said there’s no evidence that 4-posters attract more deer to an area. Deer don’t change their range, he said. That’s why it’s necessary to place 4-posters in areas where herds of deer have been sighted, he said.
Just as Shelter Island has those residents like Richard Kelly who maintain 4-posters are ineffective and dangerous, Dr. Richard Gambino, a retired professor who lives in North Haven, argued against 4-posters for that community on Tuesday.
Mr. Palmer insisted Dr. Gambino was taking information out of context when he argued that the 4-poster program “is critically flawed.” Dr. Gambino said that without 4-posters, there had been a dramatic drop in the number of deer in North Haven, from 456 in 1995 to 69 in 2008. He argued that white-footed mice are carrying ticks and aren’t affected by 4-posters. If the Village Board is convinced that the solution lies in eradicating deer ticks, it should hire professional marksmen to kill all the deer, he said. That would take a week, he predicted.
He was challenged by Dr. DeVincenzi, who asked his background and said that a professor of philosophy has no scientific knowledge to compare with those who have turned out the various reports he was challenging.
Dr. Gambino said he taught the philosophy of science that dealt with what science can and can’t prove. Then he added, “I am not offering you my personal research.”
Mr. Thiele said he was convinced that the problem is “closer to an epidemic” and said a regional strategy needs to be developed to deal with the problem financially.