DTF moves ahead on fundraising
“Block Island has been first for a lot of things,” First Warden Kim Gaffett said, while sitting in on the Deer Task Force (DTF) meeting on Monday. “And we’re always looking back on [things we’ve accomplished] proudly, but we forget the pain.” Gaffett attended the meeting with some updates about the sometimes “painful” logistical and legal aspects of getting the Block Island deer reduction plan moving after its approval by the Town Council last month. (It was formally approved by the council on Wednesday, Jan. 15.) Becky Ballard said after the meeting, “A lot of people have worked very hard on getting [our goals] accomplished, but especially Kim Gaffett.”
DTF Chair Ruth Perfido continued the meeting by clarifying the fundraising methods, particularly the route that donations will take in order to support the plan. The Block Island Residents Association (BIRA) has supported the deer reduction for years. Perfido said the DTF is looking for funds that will support the first three years of a four to five year program, and although the fundraising methods have not been approved yet, the DTF has created a Deer Management Fund to help raise donations. Donations will be made directly to the town treasury and be placed in the fund.
Ballard confirmed to the group that hats are still being sold around the island, and they’re currently for sale at the Library for $20. The hats are lime green with the words, “Ticked Off,” printed on the front and, “I’ve had it,” printed on the back. The hats will be sold on a larger scale in the spring.
Member Lisa Sprague reported at the meeting that she had completed the Deer Task Force’s annual report which will be submitted to the Town Council. The DTF has been cooperating with the Town in this way and will continue to make reports to Town Council on a regular basis.
Barbara Baldwin, Director of the Medical Center, was present at the meeting and submitted a final number of patients who had been seen and treated for Lyme disease or Lyme-related symptoms during the year 2013. “Sixty-nine people came in last year for Lyme-related issues,” Baldwin said. In clarification, she said, “All of those 69 patients were treated. Not all were positively diagnosed with Lyme disease, but all were suspected cases.” That number also excludes those who may have acquired the disease on Block Island but were seen for symptoms at a facility on the mainland.
A full positive diagnosis for Lyme disease requires blood testing, a lengthy process for confirmation to return to the Medical Center, so people who came to the Medical Center for Lyme-related symptoms were treated as a precaution. Bill McKernan, DTF member, added, “You might not be able to diagnose all patients [on the spot], but a large majority probably do have Lyme disease. Better safe than sorry.”
The meeting was concluded after a discussion about working with the public and accounting for the concerns of the public over the deer culling. Perfido pointed out that the cull is “not in conflict with hunting season.” In fact, according to member George Mellor’s projections, “after this year, we’re going to need an increase in the program and a lot of help from local hunters.” Sprague insisted that after the deer reduction plan is implemented and its level of success is studied and analyzed over the next year, there will be a formalized process through which the public can submit their opinions and suggestions to the Task Force for the future. “We’re going to evaluate the program after the first year and then we will ask for input,” she said.