The Williams City Council voted 5-0 last Wednesday to provide citizens some relief when the familiar buzz and bite of mosquitoes return this summer. But that decision did not come without a swarm of debate.
City officials said the cost of twice-weekly treatments during the height of mosquito season has increased since the city starting paying for it directly out of the general fund in 2015, but now they are questioning whether taxpayer money would be better spent elsewhere entirely.
“The people I’ve talked to on the north side of town, near Highway 20 where it’s pretty bad, said that (spraying) hasn’t had a significant effect,” said Councilman Sajit Singh. “So I would question how well it works.”
The city has authorized a total of $211,825 out of the general fund over the past four years on a program that includes aerial spraying, minimal larval control, and light trap monitoring during the height of summer, particularly September when the rice fields are drained and the pesky insects migrate into town, city officials said.
However, the proposal of $82,365 this summer – the cost of 19 treatments – did not go over well with some members of the council and public.
“This has (more than) doubled since we started,” Troughton said. “I think we should budget for 15 and if we need another three, then it’s a go.”
Although Troughton also suggested spaying three times over a two-week period instead of twice each week to see if they could possibly reduce the number of treatments to 12 or 14, the idea didn’t gain traction. He also questioned whether the minimal mosquito abatement program was effective at all.
“I’ve always said that if we sprayed everywhere, this would be effective,” Troughton said. “If we don’t and we get a north breeze in September when they drained the rice fields, then we will have mosquitoes in Williams the day or two days after they just sprayed. That’s the problem we have.”
While Troughton agreed to a minimal program again this year, he said the city was fighting a losing battle.
Williams resident Kent Boes also asked that the council not to approve the expense at all and use that money on other services in the community.
He suggested the council put a ballot measure back before the property owners to form an abatement district, as done in Colusa and most communities, so that full abatement measures could be implemented the same way as in Colusa.
“If they vote it down, then the voters clearly don’t want it,” Boes said.
Boes said the City Council has already circumvented the voters, who disapproved of a previous ballot measure for mosquito abatement, by taking taxpayer money out of the general fund and paying for it anyway.
After arguments by Mayor Alfred Sellers, Councilman Santo Jauregui and Councilman Roberto Mendoza that the program provided some relief from mosquitoes and helps prevent the spread of West Nile virus, the City Council approved an initial contract with Colusa Mosquito Abatement Control District for 15 treatments at a cost of $65,020, hoping that will get them through the worst of the season.
The council will consider adding treatments later in the summer, depending on the need, but noted this could be the last year abatement is paid for out of the general fund. ■