In light of a couple of proposed changes and despite some recent miscommunication, the City Council liaison to the municipality’s Deer Management Plan Committee says he is confident the documented strategy to reduce the deer population will be approved Monday night.
City Council has scheduled both a Conference and Business meeting, starting at 7 p.m., at City Hall Council Chambers, with a resolution to approve the City of Batavia Deer Management Plan as the last item on the Business meeting agenda.
“We have a good, solid plan in place, everybody is on board and I am very confident that this will pass,” said Council Member John Canale, speaking of the 21-page document stemming from the efforts of the five-person committee that worked with city leaders and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation officials.
Canale said that he agrees with a pair of recommendations not in the draft of the plan presented at last month’s Council meeting as they specifically address liability and safety issues -- aspects of the plan deemed as priorities.
The changes, spelled out in an Aug. 4 memo from Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski, are as follows:
-- Nobody other than city employees who qualify for the program will be allowed to hunt in areas 4 and 5, which are predominantly city-owned parcels located near the wastewater treatment plant and yard waste station.
-- While supporting approval of the plan, “all activities related to (its) implementation” will be prohibited “until schools in Batavia are fully reopened.”
Concerning the first suggestion, the committee identified five acceptable hunting zones: (area 1) parcel north of Clinton Street; (area 2) land in the Naramore Drive area and north; (area 3) property west of State Street (in vicinity of BOCES) and proceeding north from Lambert Park; (area 4) Route 98, south of Walnut Street area; and (area 5) Law Street area stretching almost to Kibbe Park.
Where private property is involved, hunting will be permitted only after the landowner signs a cooperation agreement form. But, in the case of hunting on city property, Canale said that “comes under a different umbrella” when liability is considered.
“That will come up in the discussion on Monday, I am sure of that,” he said.
On the second recommendation, the Batavia City School District previously announced that it will be going with a “hybrid” reopening schedule – students are in school some days and are learning remotely on other days.
Safety is the Cornerstone Element
In the memo, Tabelski wrote that “many students will be home between two and five days a week for remote learning attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic reopening protocol. As you are aware, safety of the community is the cornerstone element of the plan and explained in detail in section 6, safety considerations.”
Canale said he is the one who brought the Batavia school situation to her attention.
“I am concerned about hunting during school hours, as is the committee which set it up to hunt only on days and times when school is in session,” Canale said. “Both of these changes have everything to do with liability and safety at this point.”
He said hunting may not start until after the first of the year, effectively wiping out Plan A, which allows for archery-only hunting from Oct. 1 through mid-December in accordance with the NYS hunting season.
Canale noted that Plan B and Plan C grants extended archery-only and extended archery-only using bait, respectively, from Jan. 2 through March 31. Both of those plans would require Deer Damage permits from the DEC.
Nephew: 'Something has Gone Haywire'
Deer Committee Member Russell Nephew, who reached out to The Batavian on Thursday night, said his group is upset over what he called a breakdown in communication over the past three weeks. According to Nephew, the committee was not informed of any potential changes.
“Something has gone haywire. We seemed to have been left out of the loop,” said Nephew, who said he was speaking on behalf of fellow members Samuel DiSalvo, Fred Gundell, Gus Galliford and Kent Klotzbach.
Nephew said he tried to set up another committee meeting with city management but was unsuccessful and telephoned Canale for an update but did not receive a return call. He also said an Aug. 1 deadline for hunting tags has been missed, although there had been talk of a special Council meeting to expedite the process.
“The bad thing about this is you’re going behind closed doors with the city attorney and not involving the deer committee, which has done all this work for about nine months. And you go and just not add language, you changed it,” he said. “If that type of thing would have happened with (former City Manager) Marty Moore, he would have called us all in, and said ‘Hey, I want to go over this with you. This is why we want to do this and how do you feel about it?’ ”
Canale said he is taking responsibility for the misunderstanding.
“I didn’t get back to Russ, but I didn’t realize that he was waiting for a return call,” Canale said. “We have worked well together and talked numerous times … and I had planned to call him this weekend. I am the liaison – the go-between (the committee and City Council) and I have always told Russ that I’m your man.”
Tabelski 'Thrown into the Process'
He also defended Tabelski, pointing out that she was “thrown into the process at the tail end, and had a difficult task of getting acclimated and trying to act in his (Moore) place as city manager.”
Canale has publicly praised the committee – “It was an experience that I never had in my eight years (on Council),” he said – but explained that now the ball is in the city’s court, so to speak.
“We’ve come to where the legalese has to be interjected into this plan,” he said. “If Moore was still here, he would be the one making these changes along with the DEC and city attorney. I understand how the committee may feel the way they do, but the new acting city manager has done what had to be done.”
Nephew also said he believed the committee was not going to be invited to a follow-up meeting scheduled for 9 a.m. Aug. 13.
Canale said Tabelski sent an email on July 25 about the meeting to him along with City Attorney George Van Nest and Confidential Secretary Lisa Casey, “but only to see if we were OK with the date and time. Once we said it was good, then another email was to be sent to the committee.”
That email was sent from Casey to committee members on July 28 – the day after Nephew emailed Casey notifying her that he had learned about the meeting. Nephew provided the emails to The Batavian.
All Have to Pass the Test
Getting back to the provision that only city employees will be able to hunt on the two city property areas, Nephew said they will have to pass a test – hitting a target five consecutive times. He also said the committee takes exception to the fact that members of the 12-club Genesee County Federation of Sportsmen will be left out.
“The plan puts the sportsmen at the top of the list,” he said. “We went to the clubs because that’s where the experienced hunters are – they have to have at least five years’ experience. We all agreed to that. Now, they won’t be able to hunt Sections 4 and 5 unless they work for the city.”
And he said he’s not completely in agreement with a shutdown of the program due to the school schedule.
“If school is in session, then the other kids have to be at home, remotely on the computer at home, and if they are, that’s like being in school – not out running around,” he said. “They’re at home. They can’t be running around because the school is going to know.”
Nephew said not being part of the discussion hurts more than the changes themselves.
“If they had come to us and given us reasons and things of that nature, we’re not hard to get along with,” he said. “We probably would have said, ‘Well, if that’s what the city wants, we’ll have to go along with it' -- but that’s not what we came up with.”