South Walton County Mosquito Control Board hears financial updates, talks chemical guidelines

Story by ADRIANNE WALLINE CAMPBELL 

The South Walton County Mosquito Control District held its regular meeting on December 14, 2023, at the South Walton County Mosquito Control Board Room. 

Cammie Henderson, Financial Administration Officer, presented the administration report for October and November. There was an increase of $281,230 in income from last year for these two months due mostly to ad valorem taxes and interest received. Travel expenses doubled from last year in the same time period. Property insurance also changed; they paid for the total year instead of monthly because they changed carriers from Acentria to Aegis. Two pickups were purchased as well as a deposit on a 6-foot AVR (Aquatic Vegetation Rake). Chickens were purchased and new cages were built. There was also a rat issue stemming from the control burn recently. Forty-two rats were found in the chicken coop! Chemicals went over the budgeted $500,000 to $540,000 for the year. 

Commissioner Doug Liles said that in July the EPA issued new guidance for PFAS, or the forever chemicals, that they would need to keep up on. Soil testing would have to be done since they are not water soluble and have possibly been going into the ditches for decades. Core samples can be taken to find them. Darrin Dunwald said that no PFAS were in the chemicals used and a letter to the EPA may be a good plan. Attorney Hayward Dykes with Hand Arendall Harrison Sale Attorneys at Law said there would probably be a class action suit like the BP oil suit. 

Director Darrin Dunwald reported that they had made 17 drone sortie missions (flight missions) and they had about a foot of rain this past month. Service requests were low this past month, they have had 11 spray missions and two larvicide missions. In all, 1,700 pounds of biological larvicide were put out by backpack. Hot spots (near schools, etc.) are prioritized and treated first. Records are kept as to how much and where sprayed. Ditches are a concern due to how long it PERKs (percolation test – a procedure performed to review water drainage in different soils). Time is everything when it comes to mosquitoes. Seventy-two hours is too long. 

Liles asked if extra product is used in areas that don’t PERK properly, such as new construction. The answer is yes. A substantial additional product must be used because the ditches are not properly maintained, costing the SWMC more. Clay runoff and grass clippings are major problems. U.S. 98 has a big problem with runoff, and cattails. A EEE vector, cattail mosquito is found there. Helen McCall Park has a big problem as well. New construction is also a big problem with clay used that washes into the ditches and not dug out. SWMC has to use extra manpower and chemicals to treat these areas. The Water Management calls this “blinding the ditches” because the water slides through and doesn’t PERK through the soil as it should. Dunwald suggested making a list of the problem areas and turning it in. 

Another case was reported, but not confirmed, that was travel-related and not due to anything in this area. They are not allowed to give out too much information, however. 

Three bids were received for a new sign costing from $24,812 to $17,859. The old sign is hanging by a thread. They called the county and asked about placement given the widening that will be happening. More information will be coming on this matter, so the issue was tabled. 

A continuing education bill for an employee was presented from Unity College in New Gloucester, ME. This college was used because it offers online classes. The discussion was why the classes weren’t taken from an in-state college, which are not as expensive. It was said that sometimes the credits are difficult to transfer. The bill was approved but the topic will be looked into further. It was decided that pre-approval for classes would be required in the future as well as two-year employment required afterwards. 

Liles presented a discussion about Blockchain, that it might be used and helpful. “Blockchain is a secure database shared across a network of participants, where up-to-date information is available to all participants at the same time.” https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/mckinsey-explainers/what-is-blockchain 

They hope to have a list of dump truck drivers to be able to use in the event one is necessary. Discussion was held on using companies that provide dump trucks and drivers instead. 

Back in 2017, items from the SWMC were joined with Walton County and sold on the govdeals.com site. Unfortunately, they were never paid for those items and the money was included in the county funds. The amount was $17,864 and it was for vehicles that were sold.