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Editorial: Pennywise, pound-foolish

For those who think spending tax money on government programs is a waste, witness the consequence of decimating Vermont’s mosquito testing and surveillance efforts.
Though the state department of health has known that Vermont’s deer herds were infected with EEE, a deadly mosquito-born virus to humans, the program that monitored the potential for its spread was cut from a modest $190,000 to $50,000 over the past four years to meet budget cuts. In real terms, that meant that one person was responsible for monitoring mosquitoes throughout the state — an impossible job just on the surface of it. Two area men died this past summer because of the disease. Mosquitoes carrying the virus were found to have spread to several pools in southern Addison County and northern Rutland County, and the disease has spread to deer herds in all corners of the state.
It is now a statewide problem.
Moreover, as the story on Page 1A reports, testing has to be done in New York because of the reduction of funds, and while the single monitor had wanted to test 500 mosquito pools, his budget only allowed testing of 318 — just to save about $3,400. That’s the very definition of being penny-wise and pound-foolish.
Even if the program’s budget were doubled over its previous high, that’s a small amount compared to the state’s general fund budget. As Gary Meffe, chairperson of the Brandon-Leicester-Salisbury-Goshen Mosquito District, aptly said, “to get a statewide system in place, we’re not talking about millions of dollars, we’re talking about thousands.”
Area legislators met last week to understand the issue and prepare a request for additional funding to cover the cost of an expanded program. Their task, and that of area residents, is to impress upon the entire Legislature and the administration that this is a public health issue of critical importance.
Angelo S. Lynn

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