From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 8, Number 18 - July 24, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Single County Wide Mosquito District Proposed

by Derek Farr

They buzz, they bite, they annoy, they carry diseases and on Tuesday, they found their way onto the County Commissioners’ agenda. Mosquitoes and the role of Sublette County’s three Mosquito Abatement Districts (MADs) were the topic.

County residents specifically called to consolidate the three districts into one countywide entity.

But how to compose a countywide district remained unclear.

“(The commissioners) are not equipped to spray mosquitoes,” Commission Chair Bill Cramer said. “We are here to provide funding for it but someone has to be responsible. Who’s going to do it? You have to have an entity in charge.”

One possibility is having Sublette County Weed and Pest Control (WPC) take over the program but convincing WPC administration might not be easy.

“We had this conversation with the (WPC) board several years ago,” Cramer said. “The board has changed since then and I don’t know if this board is more receptive than the board was back then ... but I’ll tell you I don’t want anything to do with mosquito spraying.”

A resolution to this itchy issue might be more complicated than a mosquito’s life cycle.

Before MAD #1 (encompassing Pinedale) killed its first mosquitoes 27 years ago, Pinedale residents were indoor refugees during the summer. Swarms of tenacious mosquitoes made outdoor activity miserable. MAD #1 was conceived to make life more livable.

But in the last five years, the West Nile Virus has transformed mosquito control from a liability issue into a public health issue.

The transformation has turned mosquito control into an evermore complicated and expensive issue. Mosquito control costs money. MAD#2 (encompassing the Big Piney area) is a 30,000-acre behemoth. The price of the chemicals notwithstanding (some cost $180 a gallon), aerial sprayers charge one to two dollars an acre. The complexity and expense has MAD #2 clerk Jeannie Robinson suggesting a consolidation as well. “We tried in January to get the commissioners to take over the entire thing but it didn’t work,” she said. “It’s a lot of wasted money and it all could be done by one.” Robinson argues that a countywide district would be more cost effective.

She said one district buying in bulk would receive better discounts from chemical manufacturers. The county would require less paid staff than three districts and the county would save money on advertising its spray dates. That money, she says, could be used to secure grants from the Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA) and ultimately fund a full-time MAD staff.

State grants partially fund MAD #2 but WDA grant money is getting harder to acquire. In 2008, MAD #2 received $23,000 less in grants than 2007.

“The state is tightening down on what you have to do to get a grant,” she said. “I would have to be a mosquito expert to qualify for the bigger grants this year.” That’s because WDA grants require data collection in return and the WDA isn’t interested in making a backyard more livable – it is interested in stopping the West Nile Virus.

This year MAD #2 is trapping and identifying mosquitoes for the first time, Robinson said.

“(The WDA) wants to make sure you’re not just spraying for nuisance mosquitoes. They want to make sure we have the Culex tarsalis.”

Culex tarsalis is the mosquito species responsible for spreading West Nile.

On Friday the Wyoming Department of Health announced a Fremont County male had become the state’s first West Nile human viral case.

In 2007 West Nile infected one person in Sublette County and 117 in Fremont County according to the Centers for Disease Control.

It is the threat of West Nile and the WDA’s desire to track Culex tarsalis attaching strings to grant money. Robinson fulfills her grant’s requirements by collecting data from three traps.

One trap near the Green River had more than 2,000 mosquitoes. Robinson said it took four hours to count every insect.

With one part-time mosquito trapper, Robinson said the district’s budget is quickly overwhelmed by WDA grant requirements.

“It’s getting to the point, with everything you have to do for the grants, that you need full-time employees.”

But MAD #2 isn’t representative of all mosquito abatement districts.

Pinedale’s 11,670-acre MAD #1 operates at the other end of the spectrum.

Peggy Winters, MAD #1 secretary, doesn’t use grants. Its budget of $32,000 is fully funded by MAD #1 property owners.

Winter’s has been successfully running her district for 27 years but she’s open to change – with conditions. “You consolidate, fine, but I’m not dropping my district for two to three years,” Winter said. “I hope they do get it to go but I’m not going to drop mine until it’s a proven winner.”

The painstaking work of buying, storing, handling, and spraying hazardous materials is only a part of a mosquito district’s tasks. MADs are charged with advertising spraying times and locations, and hearing complaints.

The world of mosquito control is full of complaints. On July 3, MAD #2 used a new chemical Aquahalt instead of Malathion. The new chemical did not work and the district was swarmed with negative comments.

Negative comments don’t mean much to residents of Bondurant and Daniel. Neither community is in a MAD district although many residents probably wouldn’t mind a little mosquito relief.

“I think the abatement program has to be countywide to be successful,” Daniel resident Courtney Skinner said at the Tuesday commissioners’ meeting. “I think we are running out of time before West Nile pops up on us.”

Making one district wouldn’t be easy.

The commissioners do not have the power to dissolve or construct abatement districts.

“The districts are independently formed by the people of those districts,” Cramer said. “They are not created by the commissioners; they are created by the voters and the property owners in that district.”

Each district would have to dissolve itself and a county entity would have to accept the responsibilities. Cramer encourages single-district advocates to voice their concerns at WPC board meetings. The three-person board will then make the decision to accept or deny the added responsibility.

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