Health officials: Amherst should join Pioneer Valley Mosquito Control District

  • Amherst Town Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Monday, May 23, 2022

AMHERST — Local health officials are advising the Town Council to join the Pioneer Valley Mosquito Control District, but they are not making a similar recommendation to opt out of state spraying.

The Board of Health, at the request of Health Director Jennifer Brown, voted 4-0 last week to inform the council, in advance of its May 16 meeting, that Amherst should become part of the regional district.

Brown said joining will come at a cost of $5,000, though there is sufficient money in the department’s budget to cover this expense.

“If we join, we'll be joining many of our neighbors,” Brown said.

The district provides a range of services, including an integrated pest management approach. Its actions might also include assessing standing water, and doing education and outreach. But the district doesn’t provide any spraying, Brown said.

“That's not something that they offer,” Brown said.

Board of Health member Maureen Millea said joining the district is a good idea, in part because it could help Amherst avoid becoming a high-risk community or facing a health emergency from mosquito-borne illnesses.

Chairwoman Nancy Gilbert said the district can trap and test mosquitos in town.

The health board, though, didn’t come to a decision on opting out of spraying done by the state, which was recommended by Brown.

Brown said the state spraying can be an avenue to address problems with mosquitos should there be a risk of their impact on public health, such as through transmission of eastern equine encephilitis.

Millea said even if the town chooses to opt out, if a public health emergency occurs, the state would still come in and do spraying.

Gilbert said she was torn on which way to vote, observing that people can die from EEE.

In the end, members Timothy Randhir and Gilbert voted against opting out, while members Lauren Mills and Millea voted to opt out. Board member Steve George was absent.

Randhir’s reasoning for allowing state spraying was because that service is not offered by the district.

“Until they get the ability to spray, I think we should get the help from the state,” Randhir said.