LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Lanesborough voters will be asked a second time if the town should join the Berkshire County Mosquito Control Project.
At November's special town meeting, voters will be asked to first sign onto the project and second to spend $4,500 to allow the project to get the preliminary work done in the spring — to be ready for the peak of mosquito season.
"They have some really chilling numbers on mosquito incidents in Berkshire County," Town Manager Paul Sieloff said. "There are concerns about some of the newer disease you can get."
Voters had already rejected the item at town meeting in 2016. The question was to join the project and spend $15,000 annually on it — a cost that is automatically taken out by the state in the town's unrestricted aid allocation every year.
At that town meeting, the item came fairly late in the evening; it was the very last article to vote on. The debate among residents was regarding the cost and scope of the program mostly, with additional concerns being raised about the health of residents and wildlife.
Eight other Berkshire municipalities are already in the project: Clarksburg, Hinsdale, Otis, Pittsfield, Richmond, Sheffield, Stockbridge, and Tyringham.
The Berkshire County Mosquito Control Project starts each year with observation. Workers seek outstanding pools of water where mosquitoes breed, treat catch basins, and reduce as much of those common sources of high mosquito populations as possible. The project follows up with a larvacide control at mosquito breeding grounds.
During the summer, mosquitoes will be trapped from locations throughout town and sent to the state for testing. The state is looking for West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis. If those diseases are found or the population numbers reach certain thresholds, then the truck will be brought out to spray sections of the community where those thresholds or diseases were hit.
Because Lanesborough would be a new town, however, additional work will be needed up front. Last year, program Superintendent Christopher Horton said a global position satellite mapping would be done of the entire town to find breeding sites including flood areas, spring pools, tire dumps and other likely mosquito population areas.
By July, when a new fiscal year begins, the project is mostly monitoring and using truck-mounted sprays as deemed needed. The second article on November's warrant asks for $4,500 to allow the project to do the mapping, treating of breeding groups and set up the traps.
Mosquito control is a topic that has divided opinion. A group of advocates against the use of the spray pushed hard on the Pittsfield Board of Health to halt the program. They provided scientific studies that claim the spray, Duet, does not kill mosquitoes nearly as much as portrayed while at the same time causing health concerns among childhood development and wildlife reproduction.
Health officials responded with studies of their own saying the chemical has not been proven to have negative consequences. Horton has said the spray dissolves in the air, kill flying mosquitoes but never making it onto vegetation. They believe reducing the risk of the two diseases, which in rare occasions can be fatal, is worth the extra effort and monitoring.
The special town meeting will also ask voters to increase the local sales tax option on marijuana sales from 2 percent to 3 percent, once shops are able to open legally. Previously, towns were limited to 2 percent, which voters in Lanesborough accepted, but lawmakers have increased the local portion to 3 percent.
The town meeting will also ask for new solar zoning bylaws. That hasn't been finalized as of yet. The town is also looking to expand its business district on Route 7.
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