VALPARAISO | Officials in the small lakefront community of Ogden Dunes received the green light Wednesday afternoon to go ahead with a deer cull.
Porter Superior Judge Roger Bradford dismissed a request by opponents to delay the cull until after a Dec. 29 hearing challenging the town's cull permit before an administrative law judge of the Indiana Natural Resources Commission.
Bradford said he does not have the jurisdiction to step in at this point because the opponents have not exhausted all their administrative remedies by making their plea directly to the authority issuing the permit through the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
Opponents attending the court hearing were left confused by the ruling, saying there is no procedure in place for them take action before the Dec. 29 hearing.
"I think it's a sad statement the due process of the law was cut short," Dona Young said.
Town Council President Bill Gregory and Councilmen Eric Kurtz and Brad Wood, who have formed a slim majority on the council in favor of the cull, said Wednesday residents would be notified before any hunting begins.
A majority of town residents surveyed in January opposed the cull.
Attorney Charles Parkinson, who argued Wednesday on behalf of the town's cull, accused opponents of delaying the process.
"The petitioners have been sitting on a lot of rights," he said.
Attorney Larry Evans, who represented the opponents, said his clients were attempting to exhaust all the remedies available to them.
He questioned why the three Town Council members, without any emergency, are rushing the process.
"They're lawless," Evans said. "They don't respect the law. They don't respect the judicial process."
The town has a permit allowing the killing of up to 40 deer through Feb. 15.
Proponents of the cull have said it is necessary because of an increase in the number of Lyme disease cases in the small town.
Opponents of the cull don't buy the reasoning, pointing out many residents walk or hike through adjacent Indiana Dunes National Park and could have picked up the disease from outside of the town's boundaries.
Safety concerns also have been voiced.