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Battle over tick ad by Shelter Island Association

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO | Placing permethrin-soaked rollers onto a feeding stand of a 4-poster unit.
AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO | Placing permethrin-soaked rollers onto a feeding stand of a 4-poster unit.

Supervisor Jim Dougherty came loaded for bear on the issue of deer and ticks at Tuesday’s Town Board work session.

A full-page ad paid for by the Shelter Island Association (SIA) in the Reporter last week sparked Mr. Dougherty’s anger. During the “around the table” part of the meeting, where board members can speak about issues not on the agenda, Mr. Dougherty called one part of the ad “wildly inaccurate,” “irresponsible” and that he had a “moral obligation” to dispute some claims in the copy.

A similar ad was scheduled to run this week. The Reporter asked the State Department of Environmental Conservation to review it and was advised not publish it because of inaccuracies and information that was “not sufficiently supported.”

Adding to the controversy was the ad’s timing — a week before a survey on the deer and tick problem on the Island was to be mailed to residents — and a statement in the ad that the State Department of Environmental Conservation “recommends against” deployment of 4-poster units and the use of permethrin, a tickicide.

Permethrin is applied to deer when they rub against the units, which are feeding stands set up around the Island.

There are some residents and town officials who believe the units are ineffective, a waste of money and could be a potential health hazard.

Mr. Dougherty, a staunch advocate for 4-posters since their introduction here in 2008, has lobbied successfully for hundreds of thousands of dollars from the state to fund the program.

At Tuesday’s meeting, he quoted from a 2012 report of a study that stated 4-posters on Fire and Shelter islands “adequately addressed the public health concerns previously stated by the [state] Department of Health.”

The report quoted by Mr. Dougherty concluded that “the proper use of the product [permethrin] should not pose unreasonable risk to the public … therefore the Department of Health does not object to the registration of 4-posters  …”

He noted that the state had concluded 4-posters are recommended for use because of money funding the program has flowed from Albany over the years.

The supervisor said he was in favor of the three-pronged approach to reduce tick-borne illnesses — 4-posters,  incentives to hunters to cull the deer herd and public education.

Several people at Tuesday’s work session, who are members of the SIA, said they had been blindsided by the ad, with no knowledge it had been proposed and no vote taken on publishing it. The ad was authorized by SIA President Tim Hogue, who told the Reporter after the meeting that it was a matter of timing that members were kept in the dark.

The SIA meets monthly and after the July meeting, Mr. Hogue saw a broadcast of a board work session where Mr. Dougherty and board members were editing the survey to be sent to residents.

“The mission statement of the association is to provide information so people can make decisions,” Mr. Hogue said. “I thought information [on 4-posters] was suppressed that residents should have.”

Since the next meeting of the SIA would be after the survey was sent out, Mr. Hogue directed the ad be put together and published, he said.

Several audience members asked to speak at the work session, but Mr. Dougherty noted that the rule is that the public can ask questions only after every board member has spoken. He later sidestepped the rule and allowed audience members the floor before Councilwoman Chris Lewis had her turn to speak.

Councilman Jim Colligan said he agreed with Mr. Dougherty on a multi-pronged approach to combat tick-borne illnesses.

Mr. Colligan, a proponent of stepped-up deer hunting on the Island, made a point that he had nothing to with the ad. When he finished speaking, the supervisor called on resident Hank Amann sitting in the audience. Mr. Amann is a member of the Deer & Tick committee and a vocal advocate for 4-posters, as opposed to accelerated deer culling.

Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams objected, saying that all board members hadn’t spoken. Mr. Dougherty said, “We’re getting into a discussion. We’ll get back to you two later.

“What about Chris?” Ms. Brach-Williams asked.

But the supervisor gave Mr. Amann the floor.

“You don’t need deer to have a tick problem,” Mr. Amann said, pointing out there are problems with ticks in New York’s Central Park where there are no deer and places in Nassau County with ticks but no deer. “The idea of running around, shooting deer and there will be less ticks, is nonsense.”

Mr. Amann added that ticks are attracted to “warm-blooded animals. You kill deer. Who’s next? We are.”

Although postponed, the survey should be in the mail sometime this week.