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Sophia Chang

I cover the town of Islip as well as the villages of Brightwaters and Islandia. Whether it's municipal issues, health topics, or bizarre news, I want to help readers understand what's going on in their world from local to global. Please contact me and my colleague Candice Ruud with any relevant article ideas or news tips — we’re always eager for a good story.

S&P lowers Islip's bond rating to AA+

A bond rating agency has lowered the ratings

(Credit: Erin Geismar)

A bond rating agency has lowered the ratings of Islip’s general obligation bonds, citing the town’s “adequate” budgetary performance and management conditions.

Standard & Poor’s has lowered the rating to AA+ from AAA, with a stable outlook.

“Our previous negative outlook on the debt reflected our view of the town’s ongoing structural misalignment, which we are now accounting for...

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Bohemia fire commissioners vow never to install cell towers on district property

Bohemia resident Steve Zaino criticizes the commissioners of

Bohemia resident Steve Zaino criticizes the commissioners of the Bohemia Fire District for going into executive session to discuss personnel issues instead of answering questions about the controversial 120-foot-tall cell towers they planned to erect on fire department property. (Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas)

Travel deals

The Bohemia Fire Department has backed out of a plan to build cell towers on district property and agreed to not allow them to be installed in the future after angry residents confronted commissioners at a tense meeting last week.

To raucous applause from about 125 residents at a business meeting Thursday, commissioners announced the fire district would withdraw its application to have East Islip-based Highlander Consultants build two cell towers at its Pearl Street firehouse and behind the fire station on Eighth Street.

"Effective tonight, we will be canceling the contract with the cell company," said Commissioner Frank Wilhelm.

Commissioner Thomas Riedel also proposed that in order to quell the community's "suspicious feelings," the board vote to "never put cell tower equipment on any district property."

The board unanimously approved the resolutions ending the Highlander project and prohibiting any cell installations in the future.

Highlander approached the department a year ago about building cell towers on its property. The cellphone tower installation company offered the department $100,000 for each tower, plus new radio antenna equipment for the department. The company also proposed giving the department as much as 40 percent of the revenue Highlander received from cell service providers using the towers -- as much as $16,000 per month, commissioners said.

Calls to Highlander Consultants were not answered.

Residents complained about what they saw as a lack of information from the department about the project, health concerns about cell tower transmissions, and fears that property values would be diminished.

Residents said they were pleased fire commissioners heeded their concerns.

Paul North said the pledge to never build cell towers on district property was comforting. "If that's really the case, that would be great," he said.

"They finally realized how much this affects the community," Deborah Sclafani said. "I think it's a win for everyone."

Wilhelm said department officials will research other ways to improve its radio communications. Some commissioners said they were baffled by the public response to what they saw as a way to upgrade their radio equipment at no cost to the community.

"The money was going back to you people, the taxpayers," Raymond Audett said. New radio equipment will likely result in a tax increase, he added.

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National Park Service considers ways to reduce Fire Island deer herd

Wildlife biologists attribute dying vegetation on Fire Island to an overpopulation of white-tailed deer. Plans on how to control the deer population are up for debate publicly as of Aug. 27, 2014. (Credit: Newsday / Jessica Rotkiewicz)

The iconic deer roaming the Fire Island National Seashore may be in peril, as the National Park Service weighs options to control the increased population with lethal and nonlethal methods.

With an estimated 300 white-tailed deer now living in about eight square miles of the national park portion of the barrier island, park service officials say the hungry creatures, which have no natural predators, are destroying native vegetation and threatening the rare Sunken Forest maritime holly forest -- one of only two in the world.

The service is proposing reducing the Fire Island deer population either through reproductive controls, killing the animals with sharpshooters or a limited and controlled public hunt, or some combination of nonlethal and lethal methods. No target number for the reduction was specified.

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"We have specific needs here, with regards to making sure not only the animals survive but also the plants. There's a balance," said park Superintendent Christopher Soller. "And when one species -- either plant or animal -- gets out of control, we try to ensure that it doesn't crowd out something else."

The park service prefers a combination plan that uses lethal options until an unspecified "target deer density" is reached, then using reproductive controls. Current deer density is estimated to be as high as 112 per square mile around the Sunken Forest area. Planned deer culls in the four of the five East End towns last winter were called off because of public protests; a limited cull occurred in Southold Town that killed about 160 deer.

The agency said it believes an acceptable reproductive vaccine will be available within a decade, and lethal methods would be used until the vaccine is developed.

Animal advocates say deer control should be achieved solely through reproductive means, and an acceptable vaccine already exists.

"We want humane, nonlethal, noncontroversial methods," said Stephanie Boyles Griffin, senior director of innovative wildlife management program for the Humane Society of the United States.

The Humane Society worked with the park service on a 15-year study of an immunocontraceptive vaccine on the deer population, and Griffin said the vaccine cut the deer population on Fire Island in half from 1995 to 2009.

The park service said the vaccine used in the Humane Society study is unacceptable because of the short duration of a dose, the lack of federal approval for the vaccine, and breeding behavior in vaccinated does.

"They're a captive audience and they're quite tame now," said Wendy Chamberlin, president of the Wildlife Preservation Coalition of Eastern Long Island. "The idea of going over there and shooting them is so primitive and backwards."

The park allowed a state-run deer hunt for research purposes on the island in 1988, but residents complained that the hunt would be too close to populated areas and future hunts were canceled, according to park service biologist Lindsay Ries.

"We've learned what to put outside the fences and what to keep inside the fences," said resident Marian Toonkel, who noted the deer have come and gone in her 30 years on Fire Island. "Whatever is done, I want them to do humanely."

The service is taking public comments on the proposed deer management plans until Oct. 10. The plans can be found at parkplanning.nps.gov/fiis.

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Should Long Island use sharpshooters to cull its deer population?

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Careful demolition of La Grange Inn begins in West Islip

Demolition begins on the former site of the

(Credit: James Carbone)

The historic La Grange Inn in West Islip is in the first phase of a plan to carefully move the centuries-old building for a new drugstore.

Bulldozers have started tearing down the inn’s newer catering wings and rear addition, part of a compromise between drugstore company CVS and fans of the inn to restore the building and move it to a corner of its lot.

CVS filed an application in 2012...

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