More than 100 people flooded into Whitefish Bay Village Board chambers Monday night, most of whom were there to talk about something that wasn't even on the meeting agenda: pesticides.
The village sent out stating Dukes Landscaping would spray pesticides at at 4 p.m. Sunday, so some residents planned a picnic at that time to protest the use of pesticides.That picnic never happened, because the landscaping company decided to beat the Sunday afternoon rain and spray earlier in the morning.
Karen Sands, who previously served on the village's Environmental Advisory Commission, said she was there when the landscaping crews sprayed pesticides. She said she was alarmed to hear the crews accelerated their application time to beat the rain, since federal law does not allow spraying within four to eight hours of a rain event.
The use of pesticides in public parks has been discussed at Village Hall for the past five years, culminating in 2010 with village residents protesting the use of pesticides in the parks before the Village Board. As a pilot program, the board agreed not to spray pesticides on and Parks in 2010, and last year, the village that includes pesticide-free turf care practices in most green spaces.
This year, the Village Board adopted a plan that moved away from natural turf care, mostly because of the higher price tag.
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Several residents expressed frustration with repeatedly lobbying against pesticides, and one resident even proposed a village-wide referendum on the issue.
Anne O'Connor said she could smell pesticides from Klode Park just by walking out of her front door last summer, and she worried that her family was exposed to the chemicals. She pointed out that Momentum, the name of the chemical used at Cahill on Sunday morning, caused an Ohio school to shut down for a few hours last October after 47 kids got sick inhaling fumes following an application.
O'Connor said she gathered 113 signatures supporting natural turf care in Klode Park last year, and she believes the majority of the public feels the same way.
"I know there is not full board support for eliminating this right now, so what I would like to know is, What is the tipping point for this board? How much support do we have to show as a community to make a decision that pesticides will not be tolerated in this community?" she said. "I don't know how Shorewood got to this point, but they did."
After roughly 10 residents spoke on the topic, Village President Julie Siegel said she was going to end public comment. Resident Robert Crawford called on the board to overrule Siegel and allow more public comment, which did not happen, prompting some boos from the audience.
Cahill Park is managed by the school district, the village and Friends of Whitefish Bay Baseball. Village Manager Pat DeGrave said the baseball boosters organization decided to go above and beyond the traditional pesticide application, so they approached the village about additional spraying on Wednesday. The village didn't send out the email notification until receiving details about the specific chemical later in the week. Warning placards were placed on the Cahill fence Thursday morning, though.
"It's a three-way partnership, and under the turf management plan, we were no longer pursuing the natural turf management plan, so they were authorized to do that," DeGrave said.
The discussion may continue in the future, as another fertilizer application is expected for the Little League field, , on Memorial Day weekend. DeGrave said he will check with trustees to see where they stand and whether it should be addressed at a future meeting.
While the residents at Monday night's meeting were very passionate about pesticide-free parks, DeGrave said he also gets phone calls from people that complain about the high price tag and aesthetics of natural turf care methods.
"I feel like I'm stuck between two very competing interests, so what do you do?" he said.
For more perspective on the pesticides issue, read resident Anne O'Connor's on the topic.