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Town Board meets on preservation, property assessments and deer

The Town Board met in work session on Tuesday via teleconferencing and, for the first time in weeks, the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic didn’t dominate the discussion.

But the public health crisis influenced at least one decision the board made, voting unanimously to move the date of filing property assessments to June 1, and change the property owners’ grievance day to June 23. This is allowed, the board ruled, under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order declaring a state emergency.

Assessor Craig Wood said “it gives us a little breathing room” since offices have been disrupted by stay-at-home work requirements.

In other business: Gordon Gooding, chairman of the Community Preservation Advisory Committee (CPF), outlined a plan to provide stewardship for St. Gabriel’s Meadow Preserve, owned by the town and Suffolk County. This is an 8-acre parcel off Burn’s Road and bordered by the former St. Gabriel’s property, which was sold to a private developer six years ago.

The preserved area is open meadowland and used by the Fire Department for the annual Chicken Barbecue. The plan calls for maintaining the grounds, installing signage and providing funds to manage the property

Mr. Gooding also discussed a plan to enlist volunteers to “be the eyes and ears” of preserved spaces on the Island. This would involve, at the beginning, neighbors of the preserved parcels informing the CPF Committee about instances of dumping, vandalism or other illegal uses of the properties. Mr. Gooding emphasized that the volunteers would have no power of enforcement. “They’re not going to stop anyone,” he said. They would have a role limited to just reporting any damage or misuse of the public lands, he added

Animal Control Officer Beau Payne gave a report on the town’s deer management program, with an overall assessment that the program’s purpose of culling the Island’s deer herd and reducing the number of disease-bearing ticks has been successful.

More than 3,600 pounds of venison was stored by the town in refrigerated units in 2019 to distribute free of charge, or for hunters to store for their own use, compared to 3,400 pounds the year before. In 2016, 1,200 pounds were stored.

Also encouraging, Officer Payne said, is the estimate that the deer herd is shrinking. In 2019, the number of deer estimated per square mile was put at 76; three years previously that there were more than 100 per square mile.

Officer Payne said the goal is 50 deer per square mile by 2022, and the town is on track to reach that target.