Learning lessons from skeeters!

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 26, 2014

Fogging trucks at work in the City- Photo c. The Brandon Sun.
Fogging trucks at work in the City- Photo c. The Brandon Sun.

As puddles of stagnant river water begin to pop up throughout the flood zone, the ramping up of a larvicide program and fogging applications will hopefully quash a second groundswell of the pesky bugs before they officially write off the balance of nice summer evenings in Brandon.

Undoubtedly the fogging of nuisance mosquitoes takes its toll on some in the community and the hardline approach from both those for and against malathion, as well as the buffer zone requests, potentially pit neighbour against neighbour.

Having used this column before to discuss the buffer zone debacles, I feel time would be better spent looking at the lessons we as a city can learn from our infamous “summer of mosquitoes.”

Having spent time in areas both controlled by a buffer zone and not, there does seem to be a recognizable difference in the number of mosquitoes on any given night.

Ballooning trap counts forced the city’s hand into a couple of extra unbudgeted-for rounds of fogging.

The flood obviously doesn’t help the issue, but it had come to a point where the city needed to make a concerted effort to spray multiple times to alleviate a growing, very vocal population tired of swatting mosquitoes.

Neighbours at odds over buffer zones was also becoming an ugly and divisive thorn in the community.

And while a few lessons have been learned, solutions for appeasing everyone are not readily at hand.

So, some hardlined thinking might change the way the issue is tackled — a process that may drive the very local opposition a bit … well, buggy.

Richmond Ward Coun. Stephen Montague shared on CBC and Twitter this past week that adding a medical requirement to a buffer-zone request is gaining some traction in the community. The idea would be a doctor’s note would be part of the paperwork submitted to the city requesting the machines be shut off near the resident’s house.

This is a big move and clearly draws a “line in the sand” in the buffer-zone debate.

Buffer-zone rules are still set by the provincial government and the 90-metre rule is based on chemical application guidelines, but Montague at least has residents talking on this issue again — coincidentally enough, right before a fall civic election where policy discussions should come into play.

It should be noted that Montague’s ward encompasses an area where trap counts far eclipsed the recommended fogging triggers, so there is no doubt this would be a place where the councillor’s call would gain support should he choose to seek re-election.

The second lesson encompasses a budgeting question. As I had mused in this column last year, the budget for removal of nuisance mosquitoes must eventually be tackled similar to the budgeting for snow removal.

We don’t often have a budget looking at snow removal as a singular occurrence in the winter; it is based on best guess scenarios.

Mosquito abatement must in future become more comprehensive, and be budgeted as such for multiple rounds of fogging should they become necessary — especially in times where standing water breeds the population explosions like we are currently experiencing.

While this may seem heavy-handed, we have had consecutive years of unallocated applications coming off the bottom line due to planning only for a single application. It appears to be changing times as far as mosquito abatement, and the budgeting process for this line should change, or we’ll face yearly dips into reserves to deal with the issue.

There is no answer that pleases everyone and mosquito fogging is one you can guarantee has clear divisions. But if we as a city are going to get it right, we need to build greater consensus politically, and have an enhanced strategy so we can team up with the province to find a solution.

Otherwise, the community will remain swatting mad at both bugs and neighbours for some time to come.

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Shaun Cameron is a content contributor. A veteran of print, video and television, Shaun is a professional post-secondary employee by day, a filmmaker by night. Check out more of Shaun's work in the menu bar above.

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Shaun Cameron has worked in media for close to two decades. His work has been featured in print, internet, video, radio and television publications. A proud father of two, Shaun lives in Brandon, Manitoba with his wife Karol.

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