AUGUSTA — On a Friday afternoon earlier this year, a young father came into the University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension with an engorged deer tick he had removed from behind his 7-day-old son’s ear.

Once the tick was identified, the frantic man asked workers there what they could tell him about the tick, including whether it carried any diseases, such as Lyme disease, that it could have passed on to his young son.

“We said, ‘We can’t tell you anything else'” other than it was a deer tick, said James Dill, a pest management specialist for UMaine Cooperative Extension, who said the extension’s outdated laboratory can’t test for communicable diseases because it is not biosecure. “So he had to either send that tick off, out of state, to get it tested, or wait for symptoms to occur in his son. He was frantic. In my experience, it’s a minimum of three weeks to send it out of state for testing.”

Dill, a Democratic state representative from Old Town, said Maine needs its own biosecure laboratory so it can test for diseases such as Lyme.

He was one of several people to speak Tuesday at a news conference in favor of Question 2, which goes to voters as part of a slate of proposed state bond questions in November.

The referendum question asks voters: “Do you favor an $8 million bond to support Maine agriculture, facilitate economic growth in natural resource based industries, and monitor human health threats related to ticks, mosquitoes, and bedbugs through the creation of an Animal and Plant Disease and Insect Control laboratory administered by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension?”

Farmers, veterinarians, sportsmen and others advocated for passage of the bond to create the new animal, plant and insect laboratory. They said the laboratory would help the cooperative extension work more closely with Maine farmers and other food producers to ensure strong, productive, safe and healthy food and livestock.

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