State Cuts County Mosquito Budget

SNOW HILL- Towns and local communities must pay more for mosquito control this year or reduce efforts to control the biting pests, after the Worcester County Commissioners voted to pass the extra mosquito control costs on rather than absorbing or splitting the higher bill.

“The state has reduced its share,” reported county chief administrator Gerry Mason Tuesday.

County Budget Officer Kathy Whited told the commissioners the state was reducing its contribution by five percent. “The state is going to change the funding for a 50-50 split with the county to 45 percent,” she said.

State officials said the choice was a reluctant one. “It’s not something we wanted to do but we didn’t want to delay the start-up of the program and that was the alternative,” said MDA mosquito control program assistant chief David Schofield later.

Whited offered the commissioners three options to handle the increase. In the first option, she said, “We split the extra five percent being pushed back by the state with the communities.”

The second option shifted the extra five percent entirely onto the towns and unincorporated communities receiving mosquito control services from the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s mosquito control program. Under, the third option the county absorbed the additional cost.

Worcester County customarily pays one quarter of the cost, with the town or community paying one quarter, and the state paying half.

“It only rained six and a half inches from April 15 to October 1. What happened to the money in last year’s budget, because they didn’t spray it and it didn’t get carried over?” commission president Virgil Shockley wondered.

According to Schofield later, most of Worcester County’s mosquito population originates in salt marshes, not ditches and freshwater sources replenished or expanded by rain. Salt march mosquito populations are more attuned to the tides.

“Rainfall does play a part, but the tidal influence is the big thing,” said Schofield.

The county marshes experience moon tides six or seven times every mosquito season, resulting in a new brood, he said.

“The flooding of the salt marshes is the number one key that pushes all these salt marsh mosquitoes into the area,” Schofield said.

The commissioners voted unanimously for the second option, which passes the increase on to the communities and municipalities, requiring those entities to pay 30 percent of the bill, with Worcester County continuing to cover 25 percent.