Health & Environment

Newly formed tick committee members learn they’ll soon disband

Tick committee members meeting in Riverside on Thursday. (Credit: Cyndi Murray)
Tick committee members meeting in Riverside on Wednesday. (Credit: Cyndi Murray)

Suffolk County’s newly formed tick advisory committee was thrown a curveball after its first meeting Wednesday when members learned they might only have a month and half to continue their work.

The 12-member panel has been tasked with helping the county’s vector control division establish a plan to reduce tick-borne diseases across the county. Following the meeting, however, it was learned that that legislation creating the group calls it to be disbanded in October, when vector control is expected to submit a recommendation report to the county.

“I understand the head of vector control is under some pressure to come up with a plan … by mid-September. He has to prepare some sort of report but I think that is asking a lot from the committee,” said Dr. John Rasweiler, who’s representing the Suffolk County Legislature on the committee. “I think even for the committee to narrow down to a series of serious recommendations, that is a pretty tight schedule.”

The law creating the committee was sponsored by Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) in 2013 and passed in March. It followed an October law that requires the division of Suffolk County Vector Control to submit a yearly plan to reduce the incidence of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. Under Mr. Schneiderman’s legislation, the 12-member committee of experts was commissioned with developing steps being taken to reduce the incidence of tick-borne illnesses to help vector control develop its report.

On Wednesday, Mr. Schneiderman said the committee was not meant to last beyond vector control’s 2014 deadline for its 2015 plan.

“This is the first plan we have ever done and the idea behind the committee was to help formulate that plan,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “The legislation was to create a group of people that could provide input to the director of vector control to help reduce the incidence of Lyme and other tick borne illnesses.”

He said he thinks whatever plan the committee helps craft between now and October “will be OK.”

Reached by a reporter after the meeting, some committee members said the goals are much too ambitious to be reached by October.

“We need more time,” said Shelter Island Supervisor James Dougherty, who’s representing the East End Supervisors and Mayors Association on the committee. “We want to do this right, rather than quick. I was totally unaware [of the time frame.] It took so many months to have our first meeting. It is not at all realistic.”

“That is crazy,” said Brian Kelly of East End Tick & Mosquito Control, who’s representing Suffolk County Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory on the committee. “A wide scale tick control plan for Suffolk County is a tremendous task. I really hope this moves forward and as a committee we can come up with some sort of plan to try to help Suffolk County residents with tick borne illnesses.”

Mr. Schneiderman has the option of amending the legislation to continue the committee’s work past October, but said that’s not likely.

“It was really created for this specific purpose,” he said. “ It is more of a task force to provide good input to the division.”

The committee ended its meeting Wednesday by agreeing to compile existing information on the evolution of ticks on Long Island and results from studies previously done on reducing the tick population. The members have not yet set a date for a second meeting.

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