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Does SLO County need better mosquito control?

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Property owners throughout SLO County will soon be asked to vote on whether they’re willing to pay more property tax for an expanded year-round vector control program aimed at mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, and rodents.

County supervisors voted 4-1 on April 7, with Supervisor Frank Mecham dissenting, to send out ballots to property owners in May. If taxpayers agree, the average property tax increase for most households will be about $10 for the first year of the program, increasing by up to three percent a year.

With a $1.1 million budget in its first year, the program would require eight new full-time hires , plus one half-time staff member.

Mosquito surveillance and abatement would be carried out using pesticides including bacterial larvicides and “environmentally safe approaches” for the county’s 4,500 miles of streams, 24 square miles of lakes, and 119 miles of coastline, according to a report to the supervisors.

Supervisor Jim Patterson said it is important to have a strong surveillance program to avoid the need for “a nuclear response” if there is an outbreak of disease-carrying mosquitoes.

“So it makes sense to have a funding mechanism. I question if we need to ramp it up to this level. I’m willing to give property owners the opportunity to decide,” Patterson added.

During public comment, Atascadero resident Eric Greening called for county officials to educate people about the risks as well as the benefits of the proposed program.

County Environmental Health Director Curt Batson said he is available to speak to community groups about the benefits of the program, while County Administrative Officer David Edge pointed out that county staff members are not allowed to advocate for it, under the rules of Proposition 218, known as the “right to vote on taxes act.”

Batson said anyone who wants to receive notification of proposed pesticide applications can contact the county Health Agency to sign up on a “chemically sensitive” list.

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