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Islip bans pesticides on all town property

Islip Town has banned the use of pesticides on all town property, and will require the use of organic landscaping products on all its property except for town golf courses.

Under the new code, pesticides can only be used if the town parks commissioner declares an emergency - for example, in the case of an outbreak of the West Nile virus.

"These pesticides are really nasty chemicals, but they're really not needed," Bill Stegemann, conservation chair for the Long Island Sierra Club, said at a public hearing before the vote earlier this week. "This will serve as an example to people."

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, pesticides can cause health problems such as birth defects, nerve damage and cancer. Some pesticides also pose unique health risks to children.

Responding to a speaker who during the hearing called on the board to ban pesticides on private property as well, Councilman John Edwards, who sponsored the resolution, said: "This is a first step."

The town hopes to make its golf courses organic, too, but first needs to do more research on different methods of accomplishing that and the associated labor costs, Edwards said.

The town board also voted at the meeting to transfer management of the Islip Art Museum to the Islip Arts Council.

Town officials, who considered eliminating the museum's entire staff in townwide layoffs last year, expect the move to save taxpayers $75,000 next year.

The museum, which has been operated and funded by the town, will remain in town-owned Brookwood Hall in East Islip, which also houses the nonprofit Arts Council. The museum features contemporary art by local and international artists.

The town will continue to provide space for the museum and $112,000 to the Arts Council for the museum's operation.

Islip's plan to eliminate the museum's staff last year sparked protests from the arts community.

In the end, the town cut just one of two full-time staff members and retained part-time staff until it found a new steward for the museum.

Lynda A. Moran, executive director of the Islip Arts Council, has said plans for the museum include expanding its art school to offer music scholarships for talented children whose families can't afford private instruction.

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