The residents of Williams will have to fight the nuisance of mosquitoes on their own this summer.
The City Council decided at their June 17 meeting not to dip into city coffers to pay for mosquito abatement control, due to a budget shortfall.
City Administrator Frank Kennedy said with COVID-19 putting the city into the red this year, the $48,674 cost of mosquito abatement treatment would have to come directly from general fund reserves.
“Just in this fiscal year that is ending now, we will be about $240,000 short,” Kennedy said.
While Mayor Alfred Seller said mosquito abatement is expensive, he felt residents do benefit from the service.
“This program would provide simple comforts,” Sellers said. “By that I mean they wouldn’t be (eaten) up by mosquitoes.”
The Williams City Council has spent $263,845 aerial applications of insecticide to reduce mosquito populations from July to September since 2015.
The Colusa Mosquito Abatement District, which was established after a 2014 parcel tax measure was approved by voters, provides the service to Williams, although a similar measure failed to garner the support needed from Williams voters.
The City Council has paid for services out of the general fund for five years, largely out of concern for West Nile Virus.
While mosquitoes-borne diseases, such as West Nile virus, are spread by the bite of the mosquito, those risks are low, according to the California Department of Public Health. There were 309 human cases of WNV in California in 2019, with six deaths, according the state’s WNV website. There was one case of the virus reported in Colusa County in 2019 and two in 2016. An elderly Colusa resident died after contracting WNV in 2007.
Although Sellers said he was also concerned about malaria, the only contracted cases of malaria in the United States are among people who traveled outside the country to where the disease was active, according the state. The same is true in the transmission of Zika, which is known to cause microcephaly in infants if the mother is infected with the virus while she is pregnant.
The City Council’s decision not the pay for mosquito abatement this year came after a lengthy discussion about the pros and cons of the expensive program.
Councilman Sajit Singh agreed with the mayor about quality of life issues in Williams, but didn’t see the limited treatments as highly effective.
“Even with the treatment, we still had a mosquito problem,” Singh said.
Although Sellers made a motion to contact for mosquito abatement services this year, the motion died for the lack of a second. No roll call was taken.
Mosquitoes are most active from July to September, when rice fields have standing water, but officials said people can help reduce the mosquito population by draining all sources of standing water around their property, including water in gutters, flower pot bases, tires, pet dishes, and bird baths.
To avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes, people should avoid going out at dawn or dusk, or wear an insect repellent containing DEET, picaridn or oil of lemon eucalyptus. ■