YARMOUTH — With invasive species becoming more of a health hazard, voters are being asked if they want to create a fund to combat the pests and mitigate the impacts.

If passed at the annual Town Meeting June 4 at Yarmouth High School, warrant article No. 29 would put an initial $200,000 into the new Environmental Health and Hazards Reserve Fund.

While the focus would be on treatment and mitigation measures for the browntail moth, whose caterpillars cause damage to trees and human health, Town Manager Nat Tupper this week said the reserve fund could also be used on other emergent invasives.

“This warrant article was drafted so that (the reserve fund) might be available for other environmental threats,” Tupper said. “Hypothetically, (that could maybe mean) an outbreak of rabies, or mosquito borne diseases, or Lyme disease, West Nile Virus, etc.”

Overall, he said, “the article provides some flexibility in the event that some new disease or threat is introduced and there is some meaningful way that local government could respond.”

Although the Town Council is recommending passage of the warrant article, Tupper said the council could not simply vote on its own to create the new reserve fund.

However, he said, once the fund is created the council will have the the authority to appropriate expenditures from it, “just as is done for fire trucks, roads, town building repairs” and other municipal services.

Tupper also said the town would be able to accept private donations and other supplemental funding, such as grants, to add to the reserve balance over time.

The browntail moth has been a hot topic in town over the past few months as the council debated the best way to tackle infestations of the pest.

Councilors landed on creation of the environmental health fund as the best option. Yarmouth is also joining in an effort by other communities to push the state to take action, since the moth is a regional issue.

Not wanting to wait for another year before much could be done, at least on the municipal level, several residents have formed the Browntail Brigade, which is raising funds to allow Yarmouth Community Services to spray trees on public lands and rights of way this spring.

The town supported that effort with a $25,000 appropriation from its Tree Fund.

In all, the Browntail Brigade hopes to raise enough money to thoroughly treat Main Street, Sandy Point Beach and Royal River Park, among other spots in town “so that people can enjoy the (these) outside spaces safely,” the group said in a promotional flyer.

Community Services has already begun spraying on Cousins Island. Other locations in town will follow as the weather permits.

The School Department said spraying on its grounds would begin this week.

Along with a spraying campaign, the School Department has said community services would prune branches and conduct soil injections around trees near the high school tennis courts, and several large oaks along West Elm Street.

The warrant article reads in part:

“To see if the Town will vote to establish an Environmental Health and Hazards Reserve Fund, a permanent non­lapsing reserve fund, for use as may be approved by the Town Council to provide treatments, mitigation measures or emergency responses, first and foremost, to infestations of brown tail moths, or secondarily, to other environmental vectors and incidents that present risks.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 780-9097 or [email protected]. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Yarmouth Town Meeting will decide whether to create an environmental hazard fun to combat invasive species, including the browntail moth.

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