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Armed with a year's worth of research by a select committee, a citizens task force may be asked to recommend possible solutions to Amherst's "deer problem."

But if a task force is formed, it should be with the understanding that it finish its work by fall or early next year, Supervisor Thomas J. Ahern told the Town Board Monday.

Ahern said he doesn't want to see the issue dragged out for another year or more, while car-deer collisions and crop and landscape damage reports continue to mount.

The deer study subcommittee of the Amherst Conservation Advisory Council submitted its preliminary report at a Monday afternoon work session of the Town Board. Only a few "minor" changes have been made to the report since it was submitted to the Conservation Council March 2, said subcommittee chairman Paul Kranz.

Ahern previously had expressed disappointment that the deer study group stopped short of recommending actions the Town Board should take to deal with the large deer population in the central and northern regions of the 54-square-mile town.

Instead, in 22 pages of text, the study reviews the various alternatives available to the town, followed by an 82-page appendix of detailed reports and data on each alternative.

"What they've done is throw (the issue) right back in our laps," Councilman Michael G. McGuire joked at Monday's board meeting. "They're not dumb," added Councilwoman Peggy Santillo, referring to the pro- and anti-hunting aspects of the long-running controversy.

But Kranz recalled that the deer study subcommittee's goal when formed was to gather information for the Town Board. As a subcommittee of the Conservation Council -- citizens advisory group itself -- the study group never felt it had the clout to make recommendations, Kranz explained.

"A tremendous amount of research is still possible," Kranz said, adding that the Town of Irondequoit, near Rochester, studied its deer problem for three years before opting for limited deer kills annually.

Kranz said Irondequoit acted on the basis of recommendations by a citizen task force.

"A task force might be in a better position to make recommendations" in Amherst, he told the Town Board.

Ahern thanked Kranz and deer study subcommittee members for their work. "If we can educate (town residents) the way the deer subcommittee has educated the Town Board, then I think we'll have gone a long way toward solving our problem," Ahern told the board.

In other matters Monday, the Town Board:

Indicated it is ready to hire consultants, perhaps as soon as next Monday, for the conceptual design phase of a second indoor ice skating arena at the Audubon Recreation Center.

Recreation Director Jeffrey M. Bloom and Town Engineer Paul M. Bowers said a committee recommends the town accept a $54,500 project management proposal by EI Associates of Pineview Drive, Amherst, in association with NBBJ Sports Group, Ice Systems of America, Baer and Associates and Atlanta Management Services Inc.

Gave Bowers permission to obtain quotes and hire an outside accountant to perform a financial feasibility study of consolidating 23 lighting districts with tax rates ranging from 65 to 85 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Amherst has 200 lighting districts (compared with one in the City of Buffalo), with rates ranging from about 20 cents to $3.60. The town is looking at the possibility of eventually consolidating the 200 districts into eight to 10 by grouping districts with similar rates into single new districts.

A changeover from incandescent to high pressure sodium lights on town-owned poles would mean better lighting at substantial savings to homeowners, officials said. One district's bill dropped from $17,000 to $6,000 after the newer lights were installed, according to Bowers.

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