BREWSTER – The stags will have to look over their shoulders when they stroll through the Punkhorn Parkands next December.
At Saturday’s town hall at Stony Brook School baseball field, voters approved a bylaw allowing bowhunting for 18 days over three weeks in December, during archery season .
Last year, townspeople voted to ban all hunting in the Punkhorn. The promoter of this citizen petition article, Betsy Smith, wanted the measure to be a binding bylaw and worked with the city to develop appropriate language. However, as she recounted on Saturday, two days before last year’s meeting, the then city attorney informed her that the article would only be advisory.
This year Smith was back with Article 17, intended as a regulation, which would ban hunting in the Punkhorn. Hunting supporters filed their own citizen petition measure, Section 18 which replicated Smith’s prohibition language except for the last sentence which would allow bowhunting for three weeks from the first Monday in December.
As luck of the lottery had it (Brewster uses a lottery to determine the order of non-budget items) item 18 was called first. Speaking during a heated debate, City Councilman Greg Corbo explained that the language of Sections 17 and 18 was identical except for the last sentence.
If not, the articles approved, hunting would be prohibited, save the exemption for bowhunting specified by article 18, or, as he conceded, l Article 17 was irrelevant.
While every article on the mandate, except for the first two from the special municipal assembly, drew comment, voters approved all the articles on expenditure, although the budget for the regional schools of Nauset was opposed. by a significant portion of voters.
But the hunting measures have generated a lot of discussion.
“This issue is about public safety,” noted Section 18 petitioner Joe Breda. “Over seven years, there have been 53 calls to Brewster police regarding a (possibly illegal) hunting problem. There was a citation for an unlocked gun in a vehicle. In the same seven years, there were 24 incidents involving deer and bicycles or vehicles, including one fatality.
Hunting has been banned in the Punkhorn by the Conservation Commission since the early 1990s. Officials have regularly looked into the matter.
“Why do we exclude hunters from public lands? asked Breda. “Since 2015, the average has been 12 people buying a hunting license per year. How many hunters are we talking about? Public lands are for the public.
State Representative Tim Whalen, R-Brewster, called for a compromise.
“In the world of politics, we have ‘reasonable accommodation,'” Whalen said. “It’s reasonable accommodation. In 26 years of law enforcement, I have never responded to a bowhunting complaint. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve responded to accidents involving deer.”
“I think reasonable accommodation allows for hunting in other places in Brewster (Mother’s Bog, water department land),” Punkhorn resident Bob Rice said.
Gary Kaser said there have been no bowhunting accidents in the state.
However, one speaker noted that there were 20 private homes within the 865-acre Punkhorn. “The general hunting opening is too wide,” he said.
The article was approved by majority. Article 17 (the ban) was postponed indefinitely after some discussion about whether to do so.
The measurement of school expenditure has also been debated.
The finance committee disagreed with Nauset Regional School’s valuation of $12.3 million by a 6-to-2 margin.
“We were concerned about the lack of transparency and accountability in the presentation of the budget,” said Pete Dahl, a member of the finance committee. He was also concerned that the school committee had certified the budget before the finance committee had had a chance to intervene.
Many citizens were also concerned about the expense of educating more than 100 school-choice students — a debate that dominated discussions of the 2021 $132 million high school renovation.
“The choice of school is a calamity for the four cities (Brewster, Orleans, Harwich and Wellfleet),” said Antonio Ortiz. “We subsidize tuition for students coming from different cities.”
Last year, there were over 230 choice students at Nauset out of a total of about 905. The school committee recently voted to accept up to 125 new choice students.
Nancy Ortiz said choice students are reimbursed by the state at $5,800 per student when costs per student exceed $20,000.
“The relationship between the city and the schools needs to be reworked,” said board member Ned Chatelain. “But the schools are doing a phenomenal job of educating our children. That’s why my family moved to Brewster. “
“Choice of school allows for the breadth and depth of the curriculum,” Seamus Woods said. “Overall a great school with a great program.”
The budget was approved, as was an elementary school budget of $10.4 million, a city operating budget of $24.2 million, a $2.7 million budget for the water, community preservation funding of $1.4 million and a capital plan of $1.7 million.
The meeting was dissolved after more than three and a half hours when a quorum call revealed that 159 voters remained against the required 200.