The issue of deer management in River Forest continued down its already contentious path Feb. 24 when the village board voted 5-1 to approve village President Cathy Adduci’s appointment of 11 members to a newly formed deer management ad hoc committee but informally agreed to add two more members.

The ad hoc committee is scheduled to meet for the first time at 7 p.m. tonight in the Community Room of Village Hall, 400 Park Ave., with Trustees Tom Cargie and Patty Henek as co-chairs.

Don Hollenbach, Cathleen Hughes, Dawn Mizgala, Ronald Lemar, John Roeger, Annette Madden, Ingrid Liu, Katharine Christmas, Joel Lueking, Laurie Gillard and John Flynn were selected from 30 applicants. The committee’s purpose is to draft a community survey and review results; research alternative ways to manage/reduce deer conflicts; plan at least one community forum to educate residents on the importance of a deer management program; and prepare a written report with the committee’s findings and recommendations to the village president and village board regarding deer management strategies to use in the village.

 During the citizen comment portion of the Feb. 24 meeting, five residents criticized the selection process in general and Adduci in particular, leading officials to informally agree to vote to add two more members at the next village board meeting March 9. 

The board agreed to create the committee Jan. 13 after deciding to not pursue a deer culling contract with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County and approved the committee’s formal creation Jan. 27. 

Officials were originally set to vote on a deer-culling contract in November but, when a large group of residents from both sides of the issue came out, the board agreed to suspend the vote. 

While they agreed to form the task force, they postponed the discussion of any specifics until a later date.

At the time, it was understood that there would be no further vote until the task force had a chance to consider the issue. But after a prolonged discussion, a majority of the board agreed in December to vote on the culling agreement in January, while still working to form the task force. 

In recent years, deer sightings have been on the rise, and the village has been getting an increasing number of complaints about landscaping damage, tick-borne diseases and deer droppings in resident yards. 

The residents who spoke Feb. 24 expressed concerns regarding the balance of the committee and accused Adduci of appointing residents who support culling.

They said the committee was not geographically balanced and questioned why residents who had presented their own research on deer management when speaking at previous meetings were not represented.  

“I stand by my appointments,” Adduci said. “I came up with what I believe is the best fit.”

She defended her process of making the committee appointments, noting it was the same process that she has used over the past seven years. She also said she was on a tight schedule, needing to choose 11 from a group of 30 before the agenda was posted on Feb. 20, which was less than two days after the application deadline of Feb. 18.

“I think I did my job and did it well given the time constraints,” she said.

Adduci encouraged those who spoke to stay involved as the committee works toward making formal recommendations in September.

“I know this is difficult,” she added. “We are all very passionate about doing what’s best for our community. I wish we could include all 30 on the committee but we are limited to 11.”

Trustee Katie Brennan suggested adding two residents to the committee.

“Over the past six months, we listened to residents,” she said. “Without input from residents we would not be the well-informed board that we are. I was surprised and disappointed that this group was not represented.

“Nobody is disappointed that they personally were not selected but that nobody from this group was selected.”

Trustee Bob O’Connell opposed adding to the committee and indicated he would vote against expanding the committee March 9.

“We had an option of nine, 11 or 13,” he said. “We chose 11.

“I just want to see people come together. The task force should take input from others.”

Brennan cast the only negative vote.

“I voted no because I opposed the makeup,” she said, explaining that she was not opposed to any individuals who were selected. 

After the meeting, Adduci said she was “encouraged” with 30 applicants.

“The best thing is the majority of the board approved it,” she added. “That was the right thing to do.

“I’m excited. Eleven plus two is a nice complement. The committee is open to all. We welcome everybody.”

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