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Councilman Brown: Let’s talk about a 4-poster referendum

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO | The Town Board work session Tuesday. From left, Councilwoman Chris Lewis, Councilman Paul Shepherd, Supervisor Jim Dougherty and Councilman Ed Brown.

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO | The Town Board work session Tuesday. From left, Councilwoman Chris Lewis, Councilman Paul Shepherd, Supervisor Jim Dougherty and Councilman Ed Brown.

Councilman Ed Brown has called for a discussion on letting residents decide through a referendum on future funding of the town’s 4-poster program.

At Tuesday’s Town Board work session, Mr. Brown said he didn’t want his suggestion to be misconstrued that he was against the 4-poster program, which are feeding stands that brush deer with a chemical, premetherin, that kills ticks. The town is currently spending about $90,000 a year on the program.

Mr. Brown said the money for the 4-posters is a budget buster and will only get worse over time. Supervisor Jim Dougherty mentioned that the referendum could be to ask residents if they want the town to float a bond to pay for the program.

When the 4-posters were initially deployed on Shelter Island in a test program running from 2008 through 2011 under a program funded by New York State, Suffolk County and the town, there were 60 units. But when the town took over the program on its own in 2012, it could afford fewer units, putting out 15 that year and about 19 in 2013.

There was a dramatic drop in the tick population during the years of the trial, but with fewer units deployed in 2012 and 2013 there was a 200 percent spike in the tick population, according to Deer and Tick Committee Chairman Mike Scheibel.

The issue of a referendum has been raised before when the board discussed Mr. Scheibel’s idea to create a town position to oversee its deer and tick program. Mr. Brown then suggested there be a ballot referendum on creating the position and Mr. Dougherty said he was open to floating a bond for the entire deer and tick management program.

“I’m not saying get rid of the 4-posters,” Mr. Brown said Tuesday. “Maybe we have to find another way of going about things.”

Mr. Dougherty agreed. “I think we have to get imaginative,” he said.

Mr. Brown suggested discussions of a referendum be ongoing and if a decision is made to go to the voters, it should be done by September 1 before the board begins hammering out 2015’s budget.

In other business:

•  The board discussed a memo it received from Doug Matz, chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals, which noted that there’s a “trend towards the increased installation of noisy mechanical devices on properties, such as generators and air conditioners. Many property owners seek to locate this equipment as far as possible from their homes, resulting in the request for variances and complaints form neighbors.”

There is no mention of generators or other types of mechanical equipment in the town code when it comes to set backs, and the ZBA suggests amending the code, replacing language stating “heating, ventilation and air-conditioning units” with “all mechanical equipment.”

The board will refer the matter to Town Attorney Laury Dowd, who was absent Tuesday, and set a pubic hearing on the matter.

• Mr. Dougherty mentioned that at a recent meeting of the East End Supervisors and Mayors Association (EESMA), which he chairs, there was a suggestion that municipalities consider joining a regional effort to ban plastic bags provided by retail establishments.

“It’s a good issue to think about,” Mr. Dougherty said.

Councilwoman Chris Lewis agreed, noting that plastic bags are a source of pollution in waterways and the board has always been concerned about protecting the Peconic Estuary.

• Staying with an environmental theme, Mr. Dougherty reported that at the same EESMA meeting, a presentation was made on the safe disposal of prescription drugs by setting up secure boxes in various locations in communities, such as town halls, senior centers and pharmacies.

Mr. Dougherty said the secure disposal boxes are purchased through a nonprofit for $1,460 apiece and several would be a good fit for the Island. The controlled substances would then be incinerated, protecting people from the harmful effects of using the drugs without being under a doctor’s care, and also prevent many drugs being flushed down toilets and entering water supplies.

The board agreed to have representatives of a group promoting the idea at a future Town board meeting.

• The board discussed creating a proclamation supporting “World Falun Dafa Day.”

Councilman Paul Shepherd described Falu, Dafa as a “philosophy” originating in China that “embraces the ideals of the Judeo-Christian Ethic without Jesus.”

The philosophy is “be a good person kind of thing. There’s nothing toxic about it,” he added, but supports freedom of expression. Followers in China have been subject to oppression.

The proclamation would support the group, Mr. Shepherd said, “and of course you should never miss an opportunity to stick your thumb in China’s eye, either.”

Mr. Brown weighed in that Shelter Island might be “the first board to start a world war.”

A proclamation will be drafted and is scheduled to be presented at next week’s work session.