Opinion: Towns unfairly have bug liability

In response to your July 16, 2015, coverage of mosquito control: State administrative policy governing mosquito control is based on what seems to be a fundamental flaw. On the one hand the state has claimed jurisdiction and authority over “waters of the state,” while on the other hand liabilities issuing from those same waters such as mosquito control have been laid squarely on the shoulders of the locals.
Funding for mosquito control includes a grant program to offset a portion of surveillance and larviciding expenses at the local level. However, compliance with state and federal permitting, adherence to agency-established treatment thresholds, survey reporting, mapping, licensing, larvicide and adulticide application expenses and protocols, manpower, local governance and full funding mechanisms, all of this is left to the locals for treating on land and in those same “waters of the state” mentioned earlier.
Whiting, a town that chose not do all of those things, is now an epicenter of vector management. In this case the state may bring in outside contractors to deal with the appearance of Eastern equine encephalitis, at great expense to the state coffers, while the established districts continue to do battle with both the mosquitoes and the state agencies. In practice, state administrative rules and protocols, adversarial authoritative manner and funding mechanism have hampered and undermined the ability of the locals to do their jobs effectively.
The recent problems in the Brandon Leicester Salisbury Goshen Insect Control District is only one case in point. Another case in point is the recent decision by the Lemon Fair Insect Control District to sell their greatest asset in the mosquito wars: the district aircraft. After effectively treating by air over 50,000 acres over 8 years of service, generating needed income through commercial applications of safe and effective biologic controls of larvae, expenses began to outweigh income. This was in no small part due to the state Agency of Agriculture administrators raising treatable thresholds to well above nationally accepted best practices, in what can only be seen as a cost-saving measure, effectively grounding the LFICD aviation sector.
This brought about a rational decision by rational volunteers sitting on the LFICD board, which, for all intents and purposes, ended the ability of the district to effectively carry out its stated mission, which is “to treat where needed as needed.” The sale of the LFICD aircraft also deprived neighboring districts of a needed local service.
It might be noted that with the removal of the local aviation capability there currently exists no agricultural aerial application service located within the state of Vermont. Local farms are contracting with out-of-state aerial applicators to apply fertilizer over saturated fields at great expense. State legislators will need to enact reforms to Vermont statute governing mosquito control, shifting the financial burden to the state while giving more authority to the locals to carry out mosquito control in a manner that best serves the public.
Thomas Vanacore, Bridport
Founding Chairman of the Lemon Fair Insect Control District

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