Thousands of Flagler County residents and businesses will be paying a new tax to combat mosquitos starting next October. The Flagler County Commission Monday evening unanimously approved the expansion of the East Flagler Mosquito Control District to all of Plantation Bay at the south end of the county and to a 5,000-acre sliver running north-south, west of U.S. 1, mostly in Palm Coast, including the rapidly-growing Sawmill Creek subdivision.
The 5-0 vote formalizes a plan in the works for over a year. Residents and businesses in those zones will start paying a tax to the mosquito district for the coverage, as others already do in Palm Coast, Bunnell, Beverly Beach and Flagler Beach, through their annual property tax bill. It’s not much. A $200,000 house with a $50,000 exemption will pay $45 a year, out of a typical tax bill of about $3,000.
When the county plans a new tax, it is required to hold two public hearings. The East Flagler district is its own taxing authority, however. The approving vote from the county was required only because the county must ratify by ordinance any district boundary alteration, as it has done several times since the district’s creation in 1952. Oddly, there were no public hearings specifically focused on the expansion on the district’s side. The district held a workshop in August 2021 to gauge public sentiment about the expansion. It drew only 10 people, with split reactions to the plan.
The response to the county’s release was more silent: “We had no public comment,” said Jonathan Lord, director of the county’s emergency management division, said. Lord was the county’s point man on the district’s expansion. Similarly, no members of the public addressed the matter ahead of the commission’s vote Monday.
Those who are opposed to spraying tend to be sharply opposed. Those who are for it tend to be indifferent to meetings: they don’t turn out to say: go ahead and spray. Last October, the county issued a release on Oct. 19 to announce the Nov. 21 proposal, giving the public a chance to turn up for that. No one did.
This is the first of planned a three-phase expansion. The second phase would be implemented in 2024-25 and would expand boundaries to Espanola in the center of the county, and to Rima Ridge to the south. The district is already providing service there, but through a contract with the county. So for those residents, who are already paying the tax, only the name of the taxing authority will change on their ta bills, once the boundaries are formally expanded. The third phase would include all of Daytona North (or the Mondex) and the rest of the county. A date for that expansion has not been determined.
The new expansion will end the strange circumstances where “you had one side of the street on one side of the neighborhood getting services and the other side was not getting services,” Lord said. He credited the cooperation between the county, the district and the property appraiser’s office to get to this point. “It was exciting to see that kind of progress, especially when it benefits our residents,” he said.
“Mosquito spraying is about public health. It’s not about making you feel better because you don’t have mosquito bites,” Michael Martin, one of the three elected members of the East Flagler Mosquito Control District board, told commissioners. “It’s all about protecting the public from the diseases that mosquitoes carry. A lot of people don’t think mosquitoes are dangerous, but I’ve run across a statistic last week that says mosquitoes kill more people in four minutes than all the shark attacks in the world in one year. So mosquitoes truly are the most dangerous animals in the world. So we’re really happy to get this done to bring it to you.”
Martin was not exaggerating about mosquitos’ dangers, though his analogy could make it sound as if malaria could potentially be as much of a problem in Palm Coast or Plantation Bay as it is in Africa or Asia. The statistic he was referring to was first popularized by Bill Gates a decade and a half ago, when Gates on his blog posted a graphic ranking the deadliest animals on the planet. Gates was in the midst of his own foundation’s initiative to cut malaria deaths, which in fact had been reduced by almost half by 2015. In his graph, mosquitos in 2004 were the most deadly, killing 750,000 people a year. Most were African children infected with malaria, as a result of mosquito bites. Human beings were second, responsible for 475,000 deaths a year, then snakes, dogs and other animals. Sharks kill about 10 people a year.
Nevertheless, in Florida, the last known outbreak of malaria took place in 2003–in Palm Beach County, affecting 65 people. In 2010, four Floridians died of Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or EEE, a mosquito-borne virus that usually affects horses. Dengue fever, another mosquito-borne virus, has had minor outbreaks affecting dozens in Florida over a decade ago, and a few more cases are reported each year as travelers return from abroad, but deaths are rare. Floridians are thousands of times more likely to be murdered by other Floridians than from a mosquito bite.
The combination of public health measures like mosquito districts and readily available health care play a big role in suppressing mosquito-borne illnesses and complications, Lord said.
The new spraying zone includes the Florida East Railway corridor. Railroad companies don’t pay their taxes to local governments, but directly to the state Department of revenue. To work out that system and accommodate railroads’ taxing timelines, the county won’t start collecting the tax or providing the service until Oct. 1, Lord said.
Additional mosquito control services will include (see the map below):
- South – the area east of U.S. 1 from north of Korona, as well as south and east to the Volusia County Line, an area that includes the Flagler County portions of Plantation Reserve, Plantation Bay, Fleetwood Terrace, Eagle Rock Ranch, and Ormond Manor; and,
- West – U.S. 1 to (and inclusive of) the Florida East Coast Railway from County Road 13 north to the St. Johns County Line, an area that includes the Palm Lakes Entertainment & Industrial Park area, Atlantis industrial/commercial area, Otis Stone Hunter Road industrial/commercial area, Town & Country Business Park, Reverie, Somerset, Palm Coast Park, Sawmill Creek subdivision, and Dixie Highway Park.