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Budget cuts could give deer herd a break
Budget cuts could give deer herd a break
By SUE REID
Solon Mayor Susan A. Drucker asked City Council's safety and public properties committee last week to consider skipping a year of the city's deer-culling program.
"This is one of the expenses we can do without," Mrs. Drucker said. "When you're making budget cuts, you'd rather cut something like this than cut people."
The committee approved a motion to prepare legislation to reject the entire contract involving bids received for the deer-management program and for the meat processing. This legislation goes on City Council's consent agenda on Dec. 21.
The committee had a proposal from White Buffalo Inc., of Connecticut, for a three-year contract, with the possibility of a two-year extension, in the amount of about $90,000 a year. The committee tabled the issue last month to give it further analysis.
White Buffalo was the only bid received for the program. The company has performed the deer-management service in the city for the last five years. Its current contract for services to operate the city's deer-management program expired with the 2009 program. The final contract amount for the three years was $235,651.
Deer culling would cost the city nearly $120,000 this year, including the program and overtime for the police department, Finance Director William Weber said. Last year, the total cost was close to $110,000.
Councilman William I. Russo told Mrs. Drucker that he shared her concerns with regard to the revenue shortfall and the need to trim the budget. "We have to seriously review the money we will be spending in 2010." He said he would recommend tabling the issue.
"I definitely agree that this is something that, before we move forward, we should wait to see where we're going budget-wise," Mr. Russo said. "With where we will be with the revenue shortfall this year, programs need reviewed, and this is one I do not consider an essential city service."
Mrs. Drucker said the city should explore alternatives and treat skipping a year of deer culling as an impact study to see the effects. "If we skip it this year, can we possibly do it every other year?" Mrs. Drucker said as an example of a question that could be considered.
"There is a chance the deer-car accidents will increase," she said. The culling program has helped raise awareness of the deer, which also helped decrease accidents, she said.
Mrs. Drucker said other alternatives would be explored by the administration. Waiting a year will give the city time to explore them, she said.
Culling will take place in bordering communities such as Twinsburg, Glenwillow and Moreland Hills, she said.
"I think it would warrant a one-year hiatus and see what happens with the stats," Police Chief Wayne Godzich said.
Mrs. Drucker said, in reviewing the budget with department heads and the finance department, she instructed the city's animal warden, Greg Miller, to provide her with a deer count. The last count was in September, she said, and there were approximately 450 deer in the city.
There were upwards of 1,200 to 1,500 deer in the community when the culling program began in 2005, Assistant Public Works Director David Hromco said.
Mrs. Drucker said accidents involving vehicles and deer have declined since the city began the program.
Assistant Police Chief Raymond Tittl said that, in 2003, there were 175 deer and motor-vehicle accidents; in 2004, there were 161; in 2005, there were 119; in 2006, there were 85; in 2007, there were 90; and in 2008, there were 72.
"The highest we've had in the last eight years was 2003, which is 175, and lowest we've had in the last eight years was in 2008 was 72," Mr. Tittl said. "It does appear the deer culling is having an affect on reducing deer-vehicle crashes."
"It has been successful," Mr. Russo said. "We can always come back to culling in the future. I agree with the chief. Let's sit back and evaluate where we are."
Mrs. Drucker said she also had a concern with the bid in that it was for three years with an additional two years. "I don't want to commit the city to this until we know which way we are going," she said.
Council had given its authority to go out to bid for the deer-culling program following the recommendation from the public works department that the city continue it. The safety committee authorized the preparation of legislation to seek proposals for deer-management services for an additional three years with an option for two more. It also authorized the preparation of legislation to seek proposals for deer-meat processing, which is also part of the program.
Councilman and committee member Edward H. Kraus, who suggested the committee table the request last month from the public works department to award a contract for deer-management and meat-processing services, said he has no problem taking a year off and analyzing the program.
"There are less accidents and less deer in the community," he said. Mr. Kraus said that initially, there was an "unmanageable" deer population in the city.
In the program's first season in Solon in 2005, 602 deer were taken; and in 2006, 400 were taken. Between 150 and 250 deer have been removed each year in 2007, 2008 and 2009. The normal period for the deer culling to begin is somewhere between late November and it lasts until the end of March.
The deer-culling program in Solon is one of the larger programs in Cuyahoga and Summit counties. As part of the program, the deer were removed and the meat brought to hunger shelters.
"Administratively, we've been asked to review the program and get back to council," Mr. Hromco said. "Keeping the deer population in control is very important, but it has to be prioritized with all of the other important issues the city faces."
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