Pittsfield Health Board Plans Mosquito Task Force, Public Outreach
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Board of Health will establish a task force to handle mosquito control after efforts to resume to spraying were not supported by the City Council.
This part of the panel's path forward after unsuccessfully recommending that the city resume mosquito spraying, which was discontinued in 2021. Last summer, six mosquitos tested positive for West Nile virus but there were no reported human cases.
After members are added to the subcommittee, it plans to meet in early March ahead of the BOH's April meeting — also ahead of mosquito season.
"I would also want to have someone that has consistently and historically expressed articulated concerns that sits on the City Council to be part of this because we don't want us to be doing the Lucy and Charlie Brown football thing again," member Brad Gordon said, explaining that the panel has put in a lot of work in good faith and when the matter goes to the council there is a disconnect.
Director of Public Health Andy Cambi said he and Chair Roberta Elliot had a meeting with Ward 4 Councilor James Conant, chair of the Conservation Commission, and Conservation Agent Robert Van Der Kar on how they want to tackle the overall mosquito plan.
"I think our goal is to have more input on the actual services that are being provided," Cambi said, explaining that Health Department staff would make sure that everything outlined in the plan is happening.
Part of the community engagement will be a public meeting at which the public can state concerns and have their question answered. This will also include a representative from the state to discuss Massachussetts' mosquito plan.
Elliot said this will "hopefully" be a good way to educate the community on mosquito control.
"We have a couple of ideas around things that we may want to do differently with the larvicide and all of that," she said.
Last year, the council narrowly shot down a request to repeal the 2021 decision that discontinued the adulticide spraying portion of the Berkshire County Mosquito Control Project in a 5-6 vote.
Earlier that month, the board agreed to urge the council to bring back spraying due to the presence of West Nile virus in mosquito samples.
BCMCP uses a truck spray applicator with a 300-foot range for the application. The mosquito-killing pesticide is said to have a minimal impact on humans and wildlife, which some councilors refuted.
Cambi said they will look into shifting efforts around to start early and attack more areas so that the city doesn't get to the point where it needs spraying. Ultimately, there will be a recommendation to the council from the task force.
"I think the board, obviously, even before I joined was very due diligent on this," Dr. Jeffrey Leppo said. "But the next step of coordinating with the City Council has been less than optimal."
Board members pointed to flooding that has already occurred due to weather patterns, which breeds mosquitos, and that it has to be an active part of the discussion with the public.
"We've got quite a bit of data," Elliot said, adding that it was interesting to look back on the last few years of data and see where the positive cases of the virus have come up in relation to flood areas and beaver dams and that this could provide context to residents.
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