By BEN GRAFTON
Commissioner Bob Hudson, the new board chairman for the South Walton County Mosquito Control District (SWCMCD), opened the meeting of Jan. 15 with a ceremony administrating the oath of office to newly elected Commissioner Tim Norris.
Director Ben Brewer reported that blood samples taken from chickens in the sampling stations are still positive for viruses, but the frequency of positives is very low. Testing will be continued through the winter so long as positive tests are produced. The chickens used for testing are taken inside whenever freezing weather is forecast.
Brewer advised the board that data has been received about pay scales used in other mosquito districts. This data will be provided to each commissioner to review and prepare for a discussion of the details at the next meeting.
The attorneys have recommended that SWCMCD opt out of the class action settlement with BP, but continue to pursue the a claim for $1.5 million in damages from the BP oil spill. The attorneys recommend that the board should wait to see what is produced from litigation rather than accept a settlement. If the litigation goes to court SWCMCD will receive a percentage of the resulting judgment. The money that will be distributed will come from fines levied for every gallon of crude oil spilled.
The first bid, $3,300, has been received for replacement of the air conditioning unit in the back of the building. No action will taken until three bids have been received and evaluated. Funds will come from the maintenance account. The board authorized the director to spend up to $3,500 for the replacement unit, provided that three bids have been received.
The Board also authorized the director to spend up to $5,000 after receiving three bids for emergency purchases.
Brewer reported that a questionnaire has been received from the Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program (PESP), a collaborative suite of EPA partnership programs that promote environmental innovation in pest management. Among other things the questionnaire asks how many miles of ditches SWCMCD cleans and how many tires have been disposed of.
SWCMCD environmental policy permits residents to bring, throughout the year, old tires and most “white goods” (refrigerators, air conditioners and other metal objects), but no paper, paints, solvents, etc. to the headquarters and deposit them into bins. When the bins are full they are exchanged and the full bins are delivered to the landfill. The policy does not allow acceptance of items from commercial operations. There is some concern that the state will cut funds presently provided to mosquito controls districts for this program. SWCMCD also participates as a drop-off site for the Walton County’s biannual hazardous materials turn-in day.
Brewer, Norris and Commissioner John Magee are signed up to attend the Dodd Short Course in Ocala, Fla. on Jan. 28 – Feb. 1.
Brewer feels that the on-site ponds where mosquito eating fish are produced are productive and should not be abandoned. In addition to the fish, SWCMCD is now experimenting with raising its own chickens for the virus detection program. The first hatch of about 100 chicks is being watched now.
Brewer reported that the roof leak problem has not yet been resolved, but the problem has been determined to include gasket deterioration. All bidders will be asked to resubmit to include gasket replacement in their bids.
Brewer will set up a system to poll commissioners about subjects to be discussed at monthly meetings. Dissemination of this information prior to meetings will allow commissioners to be better prepared and will improve the efficiency of the meetings.