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Is it hot in here? Town Board hears heated exchanges

Councilman Ed Brown got an earful from resident Richard Kelly at Tuesday's Town Board work session. From left, Councilwoman Chris Lewis, Councilman Paul Shepherd, Supervisor Jim Dougherty and Mr. Brown.
AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO | Councilman Ed Brown got an earful from resident Richard Kelly at Tuesday’s Town Board work session. From left, Councilwoman Chris Lewis, Councilman Paul Shepherd, Supervisor Jim Dougherty and Mr. Brown.

A resident stepping outside Town Hall after the Town Board’s work session Tuesday smiled and said, “It’s a little cooler out here.”

The heat in the meeting room he’d just left had nothing to do with the thermostat, but  more to do with an angry resident aggressively questioning a board member. It go to a point  where Richard Kelly was shouting, waving a copy of the Reporter around and eventually flinging it to the floor in disgust.

Councilman Ed Brown, the target of resident Mr. Kelly’s attack, gave as good as he got, raising his voice several times to tell Mr. Kelly to stop questioning his integrity and calling him a liar.

The shouts and accusations came at the end of the meeting, when Supervisor Jim Dougherty called for comments from the audience. Bill Smith and Mr. Kelly spoke about the 4-poster program, which both have been strongly against since its inception, for what they see as a waste of taxpayers money due to spotty data and analysis. Mr. Smith has also over the years raised serious environmental issues springing from the program and continued to make his case at Tuesday’s work session.

He characterized the 4-poster program, which is a series of feeding stands that brush deer with a chemical, permethrin, that kills ticks, as “insane.”

Tuesday, Mr. Smith called for a sub-committee of the town’s Deer and Tick Committee to analyze the cost of the 4-poster program that he would join.

“Wouldn’t it make sense to work on this together?” Mr. Smith asked.

The board was unresponsive.

Mr. Smith had written a May 7 email to the board members asking the town to provide all records of expenditures of the 4-poster program. Town Clerk Dorothy Ogar said at Tuesday’s meeting the records were ready for Mr. Smith to pick up.

On May 13, a week after Mr. Smith’s email, Mr. Brown made the same request at the work session that day, also asking for records on the town’s deer management program. After that meeting Mr. Brown said he was unaware of Mr. Smith’s request a week earlier.

This sequence is what turned Mr. Kelly into what at times seemed like a prosecuting attorney, demanding to know if Mr. Brown was aware of Mr. Smith’s request.

The councilman said he had email problems and had not seen Mr. Smith’s email. He also castigated Mr. Kelly for calling him at home, and about emails in the past he’s received that he referred to as “nasty.”

Mr. Kelly demanded a clearer answer from Mr. Brown, holding a copy of the Reporter from last week with a front-page story on the councilman’s call for records. He threw the paper on the floor at one point as he continued his heated questioning. It went on for some time.

Gordon Gooding, president of the Hay Beach Property Owner’s Association called for civility in discussing issues in the public forum. He said members of  board “deserve a different way of speaking. They are not on trial here.”

Mr. Kelly said the 4-poster program actually produces more ticks and more deer by feeding the animals who then are healthy enough to mate and produce more offspring.

Mr. Gooding asked if there was a consensus that tick borne illnesses is a serious issue. It has been blown wildly out of proportion, Mr. Kelly countered, saying no one has ever died from Lyme or other tick borne illnesses.

Mr. Gooding said he could fill the room with victims of Lyme disease form Hay Beach alone.

Quoting Reporter columnist Karl Grossman’s use of Centers for Disease Control statistics, Mr. Kelly noted that the number of Americans newly infected with  Lyme disease each year is 300,000.

In light of the entire population of the United States, that was an infinitesimally small number, he said, adding that there’s a higher risk of being attacked by a shark than contracting Lyme disease.

But Mr. Kelly didn’t mention that he was quoting national statistics and the overwhelming majority of cases of Lyme disease are in the Northeast, with most of the nation Lyme disease-free.

Earlier, Mr. Smith pushed his belief that there was no data to support the 4-poster program, and what available was skewed because those collecting the data were also analyzing it, which was against scientific principles.