The Dukes County pest management program will be discontinued beginning July 1 due to lack of funding. County manager Martina Thornton notified selectmen and town administrators of the decision in a letter sent last Friday.
The program would have been funded by just two towns, Chilmark and Aquinnah, for the fiscal 2014 year.
“We cannot afford to keep [pest control program director T.J. Hegarty] under the current structure just with the two towns,” Ms. Thornton told the Gazette on Monday. “The two shares would not cover the cost of the program.”
Chilmark and Aquinnah were the only two towns to appropriate funding specifically for the integrated pest management program during town meetings this year. Tisbury, Oak Bluffs and Edgartown appropriated funds for pest control, but did not say whether they would use the county program. West Tisbury voted down its share of the funding at the annual town meeting. The item was placed on the agenda for a special town meeting scheduled for last month, but the meeting was put off until fall due to lack of a quorum.
The program is staffed by a county employee and funded by the six Island towns, with each town paying a share based on a formula. Chilmark and Aquinnah pay the two smallest shares in the program. Aquinnah’s share is $1,903.40, and Chilmark’s is $7,064.01. The total budget for the program for the coming fiscal year was $95,000.
“I don’t think [the money from the two towns] was even enough to do it part-time,” Ms. Thornton said.
At a county advisory board meeting late last month, spokesmen from Tisbury and Oak Bluffs said they did not plan to participate in the county program as it was currently structured, expressing concern about taxpayers subsidizing upkeep on commercial properties. The program serves commercial, municipal and residential buildings. At a subsequent county commission meeting that day, it was decided to put out a request for proposals (RFP).
Ms. Thornton said she will ask towns what sort of services they would like
to see covered by the RFP, set to go out June 17. If there are no delays, she said the county could sign a contract in August to “hopefully take care of at least the municipal part of the service.” Meanwhile, there will be no county pest management services, which include rodent control.
The news came as a disappointment to the 25 pest management professionals who attended Monday morning’s Epidemiology of Mosquito and Tick-Borne Diseases seminar in West Tisbury. The free annual seminar provides three hours of continuing education credits. T.J. Hegarty has organized it for the past six years.
The lectures focused on pests frequently encountered on Martha’s Vineyard, including ticks, mosquitoes and rodents, and the rules that regulate their management. Matthew Osborne, an epidemiologist with the state Department of Public Health, spoke about tick and mosquito-borne diseases. Taryn LaScola, supervisory inspector with the state Department of Agriculture, spoke about licensing and EPA regulations.
“It’s important that everyone be on the same page,” Mr. Hegarty said. “If everyone is playing by the same rules, you are going to have a better place to live.”
It was Sheila Haddad’s sixth year in attendance at the annual seminar, and she said she was disappointed to hear that it would be discontinued.
“T.J. has done a really great job in making sure the education comes to Dukes County,” said Ms. Haddad, who is regional manager at Bell Laboratories Inc. based in New Jersey. Her presentation focused on rodenticide and rodent biology and current EPA regulations.
“I’m really sad because I think what he provides to this county is very important. Education plus knowledge equals success,” she said. “Where are they going to get it now?”
She said the closest educational opp-ortunities for Cape and Islands pest management professionals are near Boston. “Who’s going to drive two hours to get the class?” she said, noting this is the only area within her district, which runs from Maine to Virginia, where funds for pest management education are threatened. “The education is what can potentially save you from these diseases . . . knowledge and education is key,” she said.
“It seems like it would facilitate tourism not to have mosquitoes,” said Jeffrey O’Neill, an entomologist at Central Life Sciences, which sells pest control products. He said he believes that the “irrational” fear of pesticides distract from control measures that are crucial in tourist economies like Martha’s Vineyard. “The threat of diseases is often much greater than the threat of pesticide toxicity,” Mr. O’Neill said.
Judy Worthington, president of the Martha’s Vineyard Garden Club, attended the seminar. “The information was pretty overwhelming about the mosquitoes and ticks,” she said. She said she would take back to club members some of the tips she picked up, including getting rid of standing water to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds. “The more information we know, the better off we are,” she said.