4-poster funding not enough, says Shillingburg

JIM COLLIGAN PHOTO | A deer feeding at 4-poster station.

The Town Board would like to boost the 4-poster deer tick program so that it has the best results, said Councilwoman Christine Lewis at at a budget planning session last Thursday. But she told Patricia Shillingburg, chair of the Deer and Tick Committee, that there was a caveat: the board could not do everything it would like to do.

“I’m sure we’re going to be cutting this week and next,” she said, referring to the 2012 budget plan.

“Shelter Island needs to be deer tick free,” Mrs. Shillingburg said. The current $68,000 budget line for 2012 is far too low, she said, “if we want to keep the Island safe.” She urged the town to approve either $300,000 for 60 4-poster units in the “North” and “South” areas every other year or $150,000 for 30 units every year — in the north in 2012 and the south in 2013. The $150,000 would include $40,600 for corn and $98,800 for maintenance.

She told the board that raising funds privately to fund the program was not a possibility, in part because the Deer and Tick Management Foundation’s position is that “maintaining health and welfare of the community is the government’s role.”

Ms. Shillingburg said, “Every person I’ve approached, even to lift an envelope, has said no” to requests for donations. Those who made donations for the town’s 2008-2010 state-sanctioned 4-poster study, under which 60 units were deployed townwide, had told her that controlling deer ticks was a health issue, she said.

She explained later in a phone interview, “I approached the Deer and Tick Management Foundation about the need to raise $150,000.” When she “started rounding up a team,” she found out that those who gave before believe the 2011 study is a proven study. “When it was an experiment, and it was a charitable event,” she said, “they were willing to go into their pockets.” But now they say it should be a public expense.

Councilman Glenn Waddington, who is running for town supervisor, said he thought hunters would prefer having 60 4-posters in the field in 2012 and none in 2013, a plan that would allow them to hunt without any 4-posters anywhere in the down year. Supervisor Jim Dougherty, who is running for re-election, said, “We’re all learning this thing … It looks like the 4-posters work.” But “we’re broke, so we have to compromise.” He thanked Ms. Shillingburg for five years of hard work through the tick study and the first year of the town’s 15-unit program.

“We’ve proven we can do what we have to do,” Ms. Shillingburg said. “I know it’s tough, Glenn,” she said, finding the funding.

“Doing something is better than doing nothing,” Ms. Lewis said of Ms. Shillingburg’s assertion that a 15-unit 4-poster program would not kill enough ticks to keep the population suppressed.

Richard Kelly, a member of the audience who has questioned the 4-poster program, said that the data on which a 2011 final report on the 4-poster study was based — the report indicates the program was highly effective at killing ticks — should be verified. “You have to have three independent labs test it,” he said. He and Ms. Shillingburg argued about whether the budget meeting was the proper forum for a criticism of the 2011 report.

Ms. Lewis raised the issue of the pending decision from New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation. The 2011 report was to have been the deciding factor in a DEC decision to authorize the use of the chemical permethrin in 4-posters statewide. Mr. Dougherty said approval was forthcoming. “They’ll say yes,” he said.