A workshop intended to gauge public sentiment about modestly expanding the East Flagler Mosquito Control District to Plantation Bay and to a small area west of U.S. 1 drew just 10 people Wednesday evening. Three, including a property owner who would not be affected, were fiercely opposed. Two were eager for mosquito spraying. Others asked more general questions.
The proposed expansion would expand the regular boundaries to include 5,000 acres of Plantation Bay and 5,000 acres of a long north-south sliver west of U.S. 1, which would include the new subdivision of Sawmill Creek. The expansion would increase the district’s land surface by 13 percent.
But if the three-member mosquito board was looking for a broader sense of support or opposition to the proposal, the workshop may have missed the mark, leaving it to the board members to make a decision when they meet on Aug. 19 based on what they heard this evening–or on what they didn’t hear: they could also interpret the silence from the largest majority of people as indifference, or acquiescence.
The district covers just a fifth the county by land surface (117 of 571 square miles). But almost 95 percent of the entire county’s taxable value is included in the district’s coverage area, which explains to what extent the district’s boundaries encompass the most populated areas. The district also, by contract, serves some sectors that are outside its geographical boundaries–Daytona North, Rima Ridge and Espanola.
Those contracts depend on county government requesting the spraying for those sectors. That hasn’t been happening as regularly in the past few years. “The county hasn’t been doing a good job of calling us, and if it did we’d be out there immediately,” Julius Kwiatkowski, who chairs the mosquito board, said.
Some county commissioners have been relaying complaints from residents in the west side of the county who have been urging more spraying. But those aren’t the areas under consideration for expansion.
Michael Martin, another board member, said the only reason the district is looking at expanding to the rest of the county is because former County Administrator Jerry Cameron threatened to contract with a St. Johns mosquito control district to spray in West Flagler, if East Flagler did not assume the responsibility. Martin said the district then agreed to consider its own expansion, in response to alleged complaints from west Flagler residents. “So this is basically being driven by the county,” Martin said.
Mathematically, however, it’s nearly impossible to spray the entirety of the county, since the 80 percent land mass not being sprayed now only accounts for 6 percent of the tax base. The revenue would simply not be there to afford spraying everywhere. (And Cameron, at any rate, is no longer the administrator, and is living in retirement in St. Johns County.)
The proposal presented this evening is to institutionalize the spraying in the two new areas–Plantation Bay and a small area west of U.S. 1–pre-empting the need for the county to call Mosquito Control and request the spraying there. Volusia County has been spraying Plantation Bay. If Flagler’s district adopts the expanded boundaries, it would take over the spraying there, “at a much higher level of service,” Mark Positano, the district’s executive director, said.
Each time the district has expanded before, in 1980 and 1996, it was to account for newly developed, more urban areas.
For the workshop the district had organized a hangar with 44 distanced chairs arranged in pairs, most of which remained empty. One, in the back, was occupied by Heidi Petito, the new county administrator. Petito did not speak at the workshop.
“I’m really concerned about where you’re going to spray,” one Korona resident said, describing his use of a well, his neighbors’ raising bees and other conservation-type features that he did not want sprayed.
“If there’s anybody that doesn’t want to be sprayed, you can contact us and we’ll do our best not to spray,” Martin said. “We honor that.”
“We do not have a mosquito problem, I live on Westlake Drive,” one Plantation Bay resident–a wildlife photographer–said, describing children ages 3 to 10 swimming in pools all the time, but never complaining of mosquitos. “We have no mosquito problem,” she stressed, describing instead a “beautifully balanced ecosystem” of ponds and fish that feed on mosquitos. She said the ecosystem is rich in wildlife and vegetation, butterflies, eagles, “and everyone takes care of their properties.” (Positano said there are no mosquito complaints because Volusia is doing the spraying there.)
“Please do not touch or disturb our beautifully balanced ecosystem that I live for,” she said. “So please, leave us out, I’m begging you, leave us out.” She then played a tape of night sounds–frogs, crickets and the like.
Martin sought to reassure the resident, saying there’d have to be mosquitos present in sufficient quantities for us to spray.” The district, he said, would be happy not to spray where there are no mosquitoes.
“We are not pest control, we do not apply pest control products,” Positano told the audience, but use products that “break down quickly” and that don’t affect grass or butterflies. “We’ve never had an issue.”
A resident and farmer who has properties west of U.S. 1, contested the claim that chemical pesticides just disappear. With repeated spraying, the breakdown would never be at “zero,” she said. The chemicals, she said, are “known carcinogens.” (The statement could not be immediately verified.) The resident owns a potato and sod farm and owns a timber tract, and an organic homestead. “We’re opposed to be sprayed without the choice to be sprayed,” she said, especially “on these massive ecosystems.” She said many of the farmers, among whom she included herself, would be opposed.
“We do not spray west of U.S. 1,” except when the county files an emergency request, as it may after a hurricane, Positano said. “It’s done very rarely.” But in those circumstances, it has to be done as a matter of public health, he said.
On the other hand, a woman who lives on County Road 325, near the traffic circle on U.S. 1 said she’s wanted mosquito spraying for 21 years, and would pay whatever is necessary to get it. She said she has 4 acres, “every bit of it is just covered with mosquitoes.” The resident’s husband said his property is “overrun” with mosquitoes.
The next meeting of the district board is on Aug. 19 at 10 a.m. The board may decide at that meeting whether to move forward with the expansion. That would entail requesting from the county–which created the district–to amend the boundaries through a revised charter.