Bat house project underway in Andover

| 15 Feb 2012 | 11:28

ANDOVER — Nearly 2,600 bats can find a safer home in Andover Township beginning in March. “Each of these houses can hold 100 bats,” said Marshall Chudley, Eagle Scout candidate from Boy Scout Troop #85, who spearheaded the initiative as part of his Eagle Scout Project. Chudley presented an update on his project, and showed one of the bat houses, to the township committee and public at the Andover Township Committee meeting on Jan. 23. So far, 18 of the 26 planned bat houses have been constructed, and all of them will be placed in March. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, more than 5.5 million North American bats have succumbed to white-nose syndrome and the numbers are expected to climb. The disease, first spotted in 2006 in a New York State cave, causes a fungal growth around the noses and wings of hibernating bats. It has been widespread throughout the Northeast, and as far north as Quebec and Ontario. The disease has traveled southerly to North Carolina and extended as far west as Tennessee. In turn, the insect population has increased, with the U.S. Forest Service estimating 2.4 million pounds of bugs in existence that would have normally been eaten by bats. Each of the houses will be placed towards the end of forest clearings on posts. The DPW will assist Chudley in placing the houses, which can only be hung on posts or scrap lumber 10 feet off the ground. Chudley received direction from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the bat houses, which are made out of plywood and treated with a water-based stain. The interior of each house is equipped with plastic screens for bats to cling to, said Chudley. The houses are an important refuge for bats as white-nose syndrome free environments. The cold and damp conditions in caves have allowed the disease to survive in what would normally be a bat's home of choice. Christine Kretzmer, chair of the Andover Environmental Commission, said the bat houses would be cleaned once a year to prevent bees from taking up residence in them. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reported the death toll at 100 percent in certain areas where white-nose syndrome has struck. “It’s a very important project and the town is very appreciative,” committee member Bob Smith told Chudley. In other business At the Jan. 23 meeting, members of the public asked about the proposal of extra job duties and a $12,000 increase in pay for supervisor of public works Darren Dickinson. Dickinson would receive an additional title of buildings and grounds and special projects supervisor. “I find that unbelievable,” said resident James Woodstrom. Diane Gillespie asked for documentation to explain the new position and the decision be the committee. Committee member Tom Walsh discussed various new duties Dickinson has absorbed. “He’s saved us hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Walsh said. Resident Dan Freed expressed frustration about the impact of the school budget on taxes and low voter turnout during school elections and voting. Freed asked if the school elections can be rolled into the November council elections. Semrau said new legislation has permitted the process to be moved from April to November, but voters will lose the right to override the vote if the budget is in keeping with the 2 percent cap. The committee approved an amendment to the fire code that allows the fire department to recover costs from insurance companies for clean up of hazardous materials. The Andover Township Green Team is hosting a farmer’s market at the Hillside Park Barn on Feb. 12 from 10 a.m to 3 p.m. There will be local artisans and farmers selling breads, cheeses and other items.