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Tensions Rise As City Officials Debate Deer Problem

Pictured is Tom Nelson, former City Council members who led committee efforts to propose a controlled deer hunt in 2021. P-J photo by Timothy Frudd

A year and a half after the City Council voted against a proposal for a controlled deer hunt in Jamestown to address the increase in the city’s deer population, community members are still pressing city officials for a plan of action.

Tension was evident in City Hall on Monday as members of the City Council and the city administration disagreed over Mayor Eddie Sundquist’s claim that his administration proposed solutions twice during his first term in office, both of which he said were either voted down or not supported by the City Council.

Monday’s debate started with Tom Nelson, a former City Council member and current Jamestown resident, asking the City Council what the city is planning to do with regard to the issue of an increased deer population.

“I was just wondering what’s been done, what’s going to get done, has there been a committee formed, who’s serving on the committee, who’s going to take the lead on that committee?” he asked. “I know many times you get people coming to council meetings complaining they don’t have a solution. I think many of you know I put forth a solution in September of 2021, which was rejected by many members of this council.”

Nelson asked City Council members what their plan is to address the ongoing issue of the city’s deer population since they ultimately voted against his proposed plan for a controlled deer hunt in 2021.

Following Nelson’s comments, City Councilwoman Kim Ecklund, R-At Large, directed a question to Sundquist in response to a letter each of the City Council members received regarding a correspondence between the mayor and a city resident.

“I’m confused about the statement where you said your administration has twice proposed safe and humane methods,” Ecklund said. “Which ones are you referring to?”

Sundquist explained that the letter provided to City Council members was from a constituent who met with the mayor about the city’s deer problem. Sundquist added that he also spoke with City Councilman William Reynolds, R-Ward V, about the constituent’s complaint and included each of the City Council members in an email communication.

“Obviously, the deer issue has continued to plague many of our residents in various wards, and we had proposed not only as administration, working with the DEC a program to cull the deer population once; we then were asked to do a task force,” he said. “They did another proposal and since that time, since 2021, there has been no action by the council to move forward. As an administration and as mayor, I very much support the reduction of our dear population. The best way to do that is through some type of mechanism to reduce it, typically some type of hunt. That is the recommendation from the DEC.”

Sundquist explained that any other methods of reducing the deer population in Jamestown would either be “way too expensive” or would not be allowed by the state government. He said that regardless of how the City Council chooses to proceed, he remains “steadfast” in his support for reducing Jamestown’s excessive deer population.

Asked by Ecklund for clarification regarding whether anything had been proposed from the city administration since Nelson’s deer hunt proposal, Sundquist said, “Both proposals were voted down twice, and I think at this point, many council members have said there was going to be a council taskforce put together and nothing has happened, but again, I am open to whatever you guys want to do.”

On the other hand, City Council President Anthony Dolce, R-Ward II, claimed that only one vote was taken when Nelson’s committee presented a proposal, and that the proposal was “defeated at that time” due to several questions by multiple City Council members. Contrary to Sundquist’s claim, he said the council did not have “two votes” on solutions to the deer problem issue.

“I don’t recall ever having anything come from this specific administration, from City Hall per se,” he said. “It was Tom’s committee that came up with a recommendation, and several changes at the last minute that people didn’t feel comfortable with.”

In response to Dolce’s comments, Sundquist claimed, “I don’t necessarily think that’s correct.” According to Sundquist, his administration proposed a solution to the City Council; however, the City Council decided to create a task force instead.

“You all remember it was still during the COVID-19 timeframe for those that were part of it,” he said. “We had a proposal working with the DEC, and there was no support for that, and we put together a task force. We were still meeting in the lobby when that happened.”

Ecklund requested that Sundquist provide documentation to indicate the two proposals he mentioned, claiming that she did not remember the second proposal he mentioned. Regardless of what happened in the past, Ecklund said one of her main concerns is making sure that whatever solution the City Council approves is a “multi-pronged approach.”

“Living on the edge of the town, there’s more deer,” she said. “There’s a lot of reasons there’s more deer and you can ask many hunters. There’s less people hunting; there’s more posted property for people to not be able to hunt on. So deer where you live Mayor, where I live, aren’t just in the city of Jamestown. They’re coming from the outskirts, and I think we need to realize that and look at all that stuff and involve the DEC and involve those organizations as well.”

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