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Editorial: BLSG misses mark, but is there a silver lining for insect control district?

Without a doubt, life forces have conspired against the Brandon-Leicester-Salisbury-Goshen Insect Control District’s efforts to control the first hatch of mosquitos this spring. The weather created a perform storm for breeding; the Lemon Fair district’s plane was no longer in use to drop larvacide in the region’s expansive swamps; and a change in spraying practices was mandated by the state.
Consequently, it’s bad out there; as bad as it’s been for a decade — maybe longer.
But in pointing a finger of blame at the state, the BSLG missed its mark. In a story in today’s Addison Independent (see story here), BLSG representatives were reported putting the blame squarely in the state’s lap, specifically on the Agency of Agriculture, at a Monday Leciester selectboard meeting. They alleged the state changed the rules late last week, suddenly reversing practices the district has done for the past several decades. That’s partly accurate.
The state did tell the district it could no longer spray private roads with its non-commercial license, even though it has been allowed for decades. And they did it suddenly, giving the BLSG district little time to react right in the midst of a mosquito infestation. That’s all true, and it was lousy timing for district residents.
But it’s also true that the agriculture agency didn’t realize the district was operating without a commercial license, and just found out last week. For all those years, no problems arose, no complaints were filed, and everyone carried on none the wiser.
Fact is, the district should have been spraying with a commercial license all along, and once that was brought to the agency’s attention, they had no choice but to request the district to comply with state regulations. The expense? An $85 commercial license the state says it could expedite within 18 hours; that’s hours, not days.
All the agriculture agency needs is for the board to request the electronic form, fill it out, and they’ll drive down to pick up the check to get the district spraying private roads again that same day or the next. As Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross said in a Wednesday afternoon interview, “we want to help solve the problem, not be part of the problem.”
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If that had been conveyed to the BLSG leadership in a forthright manner last week, steps to get that license may have gotten underway immediately and the matter could have been resolved earlier this week. That it did not is something the BLSG board should ponder at a later time, but not until they apply for a commercial license and get back to spraying private roads.
Two questions remain to be clarified: Is there a change in who is carrying the liability, as initially alleged by BLSG representatives, and what are the ramifications to the district if it operates under a commercial license?
The first question is easier to answer: According to agency officials, the state has never covered liability for the mosquito district, so the implication that the state is trying to avoid that responsibility and any expense is mistaken. Furthermore, it makes sense that the district’s insurance will not be an insurmountable issue, considering that the neighboring Lemon Fair insect control district has been operating with a commercial license for several years without issue. And, as a matter of practicality, now that the cat is out of the bag, no insurance company is going to insure the BSLG without a commercial license since it has to have one to comply with state regulations.
As to the second question, the ramifications of operating under a commercial license could present more opportunities than drawbacks, though it’s something the board will have to carefully consider. A commercial license would allow the district to spray outside of the four district towns. It could, in other words, create a business model and be contracted for hire. If run well, it could generate revenue to counter-balance local expenses. It could also look into hiring a plane for aerial spraying. It could export that service as well.
The district doesn’t want to go wild with such thoughts, and spraying locally would always be its primary mission as long as local taxpayers are funding the bulk of its operations, but contracting for hire to supplement its budget could make sense if it drives down the cost of operation to local taxpayers.
It’s worth exploring and may be the silver lining to a mosquito season that otherwise got off to a rocky start.
Angelo S. Lynn

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