BATAVIA — The Deer Management Committee members who walked into the City Council Boardroom Thursday morning for the committee meeting chose not to sit down. They remained standing despite being invited by the city leaders who were there to sit.
They wouldn’t be there long.
Spokesman Russell Nephew said he, Samuel DiSalvo, Fred Gundell, Gus Galliford and Kent Klotzbach “have been abused, disrespected. lied to and lied about. In lieu of this, we are removing ourselves from the Deer Management Committee as of this moment.”
The committee members quit about three days after the Council voted to table a resolution to approve the plan, choosing to send it back to the committee for changes to some of the language.
A couple of hours later, the city responded with a press release. Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski and Police Chief Shawn Heubusch will move forward to assess the draft City of Batavia Deer Management Plan and will make recommendations to the City Council in the near future on how the city could move forward to evaluate and reduce the deer population.
“The interim manager and police chief will look to review the plan amidst the current COVID-19 circumstances, city liability considerations, and best practices as put forth by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC),” the press release stated.
“The plan is a great start and we do not want to lose site of the city’s goals to evaluate and manage the deer population that is problematic to residents’ vegetation and quality of life,” said Council member and committee liaison John Canale.
“The City of Batavia would like to thank the members of the City of Batavia Deer Committee for their work,” Canale said.
The 24-page plan to reduce the white-tailed deer population would also reduce:
n property damage to residential landscape and garden plants;
n aggressive deer interaction with residents;
n accumulation of deer scat on lawns;
n deer-vehicle accidents;
n tick-borne diseases, such as Lyme Disease, in humans and pets;
n overbrowsing of natural plant communities.
Hunting would take place in deer management areas (DMAs) within the city. Two of the areas would be on city property, one near the Waste Water Treatment Plant and the other near the Yard Waste Station.
The proposed plan has three phases: Plan A is an archery-only hunt to last from Oct. 1 to around Dec. 15. Plan B would be an extended archery-only hunt from Jan. 2 to March 31. Plan C would be an extended archery-only hunt with bait from Jan. 2 to March 31.
Former committee member Gus Galliford said he joined the committee because he wanted to protect his property and the property of others from being damaged by deer.
“This is nine months of work flushed down the drain,” he said.
Galliford said a series of events that led to Thursday’s announcement that the committee was quitting. Among them is the committee feeling left out of the loop by city officials lately, he said. Galliford said the committee was told this would be a two- or three-year process.
“It was ongoing implementation of the program and we were told we were going to be involved in that,” he said. “Unfortunately, the City (Council) president had other ideas. We were not told until last week. Whoever decided that decided we would not be needed and that we were being phased out. We were more than willing to continue serving, which is what we were promised when Dr. Moore (Martin Moore) was city manager.”
However, everything seemed to fall apart after Moore left as city manager in June, Galliford said. He said a major issue was a breakdown in communication between the committee and City Hall.
“There were phone calls made by the committee that were not responded to and if they were responded to, they were sometimes days late. There were changes made to the document without the committee’s collaboration. We should have been granted the courtesy of being aware of what they wanted to do,” Galliford said.
One of the changes made to the plan was that on the two DMAs that were on city property, only city employees who qualified for the program would have access to city-owned property. Tabelski, in an Aug. 4 memorandum to the Council, also noted that, under COVID-19, the Batavia City School District’s fall schedule includes both in-person learning and remote learning. Also, the proposed resolution stated that the plan would not move forward until the schools return to in-person learning full-time.
Nephew said Thursday that he talked to Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. about changing the language of the draft plan so people who qualify to hunt could do so when students are either in in-person learning or in remote learning at home.
He said Jankowski said the city would change the language to allow that.
Nephew said going forward, those who quit the committee will not have anything to do with Tabelski, Jankowski, City Attorney George Van Nest and Canale.
“I meant what I said ... They pushed us aside. It’s a shame what’s happened in the last month and a half,” Nephew said.