County contracts for mosquito control services

OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee County Commissioners Thursday awarded the contract for mosquito control services to Clark Environmental for $73,826.

According to information provided by Emergency Operations director Mitch Smeykal, more than 80 species of mosquitoes have been identified in the state of Florida with 30 species identified in Okeechobee County. Twelve species of those mosquitoes are known to vectors for disease.

The Zika virus is transmitted by daytime-active mosquitoes.

“We had Zika two years ago. Zika is still here (in Florida) but it is not the scary one,” said Mr. Smeykal. “The scary one is Yellow Fever.

Yellow Fever is making a comeback in South America, he said. Because of air travel, diseases can be spread as infected travelers are then bitten by mosquitoes here.

“We know we have dengue fever here.

“We know we have Chikungunya.

“The disease are out there,” he said.

Mr. Smeykal said mosquito control spraying is still new to Okeechobee County.

“We started this process officially four years ago with Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services,” said Mr. Smeykal.

He said at the time, Okeechobee County was one of six Florida counties that did not have mosquito control.

The program is needed not only to control mosquitoes annually but also to qualify for FEMA help after a storm.

He said 2008 — when Tropical Storm Faye left the county inundated with swarms of mosquitoes — the county had difficulty qualifying for mosquito control spraying help from FEMA.

“In 2008 we were delayed for about two weeks because we didn’t have any surveillance data,” he said. FEMA requires 3 years of data.

Mr. Smeykal said the county received about $30,000 in state funding this fiscal year, and will qualify for about $32,000 in state funding for 2018-2019.

The maximum the state can pay is $40,000, he said. Some counties receive no state help.

Mr. Smeykal said recent initiative by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) will also make some mosquito control funds through the Department of Agriculture.

He said Okeechobee County has put in a request for some of this funding.

The CDC has identified dangers to public heath from diseases carried by mosquitoes
Mr. Smeykal recommended contracting with mosquito control professional because county staff cannot do it themselves due to a lack of training and the expense of specialized equipment.

“The equipment can be quite costly,” he said, noting that spray units to be mounted on trucks can cost $20,000-$30,000 each.

He said the service was put out for bid and they received bids from Clark Environmental and Vector Disease International. A four-person panel from county departments scored the proposals.

The panel recommended the county contract with Clarke Environmental, a national full-service integrated mosquito management firm with over 65 years of experience in helping manage mosquitoes in 1,200 municipalities, townships, counties and mosquito control districts including several in Florida.

County staff will continue to conduct mosquito surveillance with mosquito traps. Clarke will also conduct surveillance.

He said the Clarke employees are licensed and have a high level of expertise.

“It’s not Bubba in a truck — these are very educated, highly motivated people,” he said.

He said the state funding must be matched by county funds.

Publisher/Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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