Tag Archives: Butte County Mosquito and Vector Control District

Sac Bee: Do we have an “overabundance of Democracy”?

16 Sep

I enjoy a copy of an out-of-town newspaper once in a while.  I hadn’t seen the Sac Bee in a few years, grabbed a copy at The Store when my husband drove me up to the hills to get out of the pea soup hovering over the valley.

The leading editorial was right out of my mouth – “Overabundance of Democracy: Elected bodies often avoid Scrutiny.”  The editors opine that while choice is wonderful, sometimes too many choices lead to nobody really doing any choosing. Voters in Sacramento County are faced with “32 special districts elections with one, two or even three open seats apiece…” California has “roughly 2300. They include mosquito and vector control districts that decide when to spray your neighborhood with pesticides and water districts that decide how much you have to pay when you turn on the tap. Others manage sewers, parks and cemeteries.” 

In our upcoming election we have a school district election and Chico Area Recreation District board positions. Unfortunately, we don’t get to elect our Mosquito and Vector Control Board, they are spoils appointments made by the county supes and the city councils in the district.

I agree with the editor – there’s nothing wrong with having these boards, but they need to be monitored. The Bee points out some districts they feel should not even exist – I’d say we need to lose Vectors and turn the operation over to the County Health Department – but ideally, these boards are a way for us to have more control over agencies that can put bonds or assessments on our homes.  As you may know, BCMVCD did just that earlier this year, in a process that I think we should all be questioning more seriously.

The Bee feels, “People are so busy and disconnected…”, cites low voter turnout, and complains “local governments rarely get the kind of oversight they deserve when making decisions about how to spend our money.”

Hear hear! How many times have I said this, well, you know, in my own way: “If we’re not paying attention, they may do things we don’t want. They may even line their own pockets, as the leaders in the Southern California city of Bell did for years before getting caught.”

Matt Ball, the guy who runs Butte County Mosquito and Vector Control, makes about $110,000 a year, and pays less than four percent of his own benefits. The new CARD director is making about same, and while I don’t know what his benefits package looks like, his predecessor, now retired, Steve Visconti paid nothing toward his own benefits and pension.

I have attended CARD board meetings, this is really easy.  They are monthly, start at 6:30 or 7:00 pm, and are usually over by 8:30. Right now they are talking about putting an assessment on our property taxes to pay for a grand new aquatic center. You can find information about all this at the CARD website – the “resources” page has budget and agenda information.

http://www.chicorec.com/CARD-Resources/index.html

I have never been to a BCMVCD meeting. I think they’re monthly, in the evening.  They seem to be held mostly at the little office in Oroville, but are sometimes held at the “Taj Majal” out on Otterson  Drive. You can find out a lot about this agency via their website:

http://www.bcmvcd.com/about.php

The editor sums up “Citizens have to get involved. Just think, if every adult picked just one local elected body to pay attention to just once a year, it would go a long way to keeping just the right amount of democracy.”

Well, I’d  say, get out there more than once a year. I myself have tried to keep up the blab on this stuff, but frankly, I haven’t been able to get to the meetings like I used to, I been busy in my personal life. But I don’t have to be disconnected.  I go to the websites and read the agendas, the documents, I do some research, I talk to people.  Try to get out there and find a commission to follow. If you want to send a report about a meeting, please send it to the “Contact Us Here” button at the upper right corner of the front page. 

 

Mosquito Tax passes by 58 percent

10 Jul

Well, I don’t have time to bitch about it now, but I called the Butte County Mosquito and Vector Control District and the little shoat at the phone told me the assessment passed, with 58 percent of the vote.

Sheesh.  This town is so divided down the middle – I was looking at our stats the other day, and according to several sources, the Republicans in town only outnumber the Democrats by about 5 or less percent. No  wonder this is such a nasty little town at times.  Lately, all the time. 

A man I was talking to about this reminded me, BCMVCD just built a “Taj Mahal” office over on Otterson  Drive. “There’s about three employees sitting in that thing,”  he complained.  Yeah,  three employees worth almost $500,000 in salaries, pensions and health benefits. 

I’m surprised this passed, but not surprised by the slim margin. That’s why the  legislature has been  lowering the voting threshold for bonds from two thirds to 51 percent – they know they can’t get popular support for these taxes, so they’re just going for fascism.

I’ll tell you what’s really wrong here – the local media has not said anything about the salaries, pensions, benefits,  or, like the man reminded me, the Taj Mahal office building. Today I ate my lunch over the usual propaganda piece on Ch 12 News – fogging in Hamilton City and Nord tonight! Heck, they legally have to tell us when they’re going to fog us, but insist the fog is harmless. But cover your car maybe. Uh-huh. Linda Watkins Bennett, a woman I once admired, read the public relations release from  BCMVCD as if it was news, running a video  of a BCMVCD  employee gravely warning us not even to go outside after dusk, as if we’ll be swept away  by the swarm and our desiccated carcass will be riddled with deadly diseases.  Then  Linda trots out the provided figures – 24 cases of West Nile in 2013? They’ve got a bigger problem with Chlamydia over at the  campus.

The piece the News and Review did in April came off like straight propaganda,  not a word about the salaries, pensions, health benefits, or the Taj Mahal headquarters, just a bunch  of crap about how afraid we should be of mosquitoes.

And I could only find one specific  case, of 24,  described,  from 2013 – that of a child in North Chico. The child had already made “full recovery” at the time of the report, symptoms including headache and fever had occurred at least a month before the girl’s test results were made public.  She had no lasting consequences. I’ve only heard of one death confirmed from West Nile, that of an older Chico  man.

I’m not being flip – the flu  is  dangerous too,  but you don’t see a Butte County Flu Control District. Why  isn’t mosquito  abatement handled out of the Health Department? Why all the  extra management salaries? ‘

I know, that’s a dumb question.

 

 

Mosquito abatement assessment – still no news

16 Jun

I’ve been looking for the news as to whether the mosquito abatement assessment was passed last week. They were supposed to  tabulate ballots last Wednesday. I could call them, but I’m curious as to why there’s been no media coverage of this assessment issue. After all, the pensions and benefits discussion is being had, even though it had to be dragged up to the table, kicking and screaming.  If you look at the budgets available on the BCMVCD website, it’s as plain as the nose on your face – this assessment has nothing to do with West Nile Virus.

I’ve been searching for any reference, and I finally found a story from last month in the Mercury Register. 

 http://www.orovillemr.com/ci_25763858/frrpd-rejects-support-butte-mosquito-control-assessment-measure

Feather River Parks and Rec District, like the rest of us property owners, received their assessment ballot, and voted NO! But, of course, not for the reasons I would have liked.  I don’t know anything about these people, I don’t know why they don’t seem to be outraged over the pensions and benefits.

One board member actually offered support – said he’d found a dead blue jay in his back yard that had tested positive for West Nile Virus. He tried to convince the rest of the board that this was a “quality of life issue” – oh, I’ll say! A quality of life issue for those 18 employees of BCMVCD who receive not only generous salaries but pensions and benefits paid by the taxpayers.   He went on to say that “West Nile Virus is a real issue!” Well, why wouldn’t that blue jay he found in his back yard be front page news if West Nile Virus was really a credible threat to our area?  I’m just asking.

The other board members were quick to announce they’d all voted NO on their personal ballots, but no reasons why. One woman offered that people should do more of their own abatement. But no conversation about the pensions and benefits. 

It’s really too bad that neither the media nor our elected officials seem willing or able to take on this issue. And don’t expect Staff to step up to the plate with the truth. George Barber, the general manager of the Paradise Irrigation District, writes to the PID board, “This assessment will cost the District less than $200 per year for the properties we own in fee. I think it is appropriate to support their effort in protecting the public’s health as we have a similar responsibility as a District.”  Sheesh George, that’s easy for you to say, it’s not your money, and it all goes into the same pot that you get your pension out of. 

Then I read an agenda item from Paradise Recreation District that quoted BCMVCD manager Matt Ball as saying the assessment would not apply to public agencies? Here’s the link to the minutes for the May 13 meeting

http://www.paradiseprpd.com/Minutes.pdf

Look at Page 5, Item 4.  Why would public agencies be allowed to vote – receiving multiple ballots to my one – on an assessment they won’t have to pay? Of course, like George Barber says, BCMVCD’s activities benefit the irrigation district, with miles of swampy mosquito habitat, and isn’t it just all the better, if the taxpayers pick up 99.9 percent of the tab? 

I also find it damned interesting that the PPRPD questioned Ball’s statement. Neither PID nor FRRPD  mentioned this clause. Is Ball allowed to promise an exemption in order to get votes? Gotta wonder, people, ask questions! 

 

 

 

 

Write to Butte County Supervisors about mosquito tax

7 May

Contact: phahn@buttecounty.net; lwahl@buttecounty.net; mkirk@buttecounty.net; dist4@buttecounty.net; bconnelly@buttecounty.net; dteeter@buttecounty.net

 

Dear Supervisors and Mr. Hahn,

Below is an e-mail conversation I had with Matt Ball of Butte County Mosquito and Vector Control District. He says, district employees only pay 1 – 6.25% of their retirement plans, and pay nothing toward their health benefits. 

But they’re asking for an assessment?

I don’t care how “small” the assessment looks per property, it’s insulting that they don’t pay their own benefits or pensions and expect to hold their hand out to the public. I looked at their last three years’ budgets.  I see they’ve lost RDA funding in almost the exact amount they’ve been paying on their benefits – that’s the underlying reason for this assessment.  I also notice that while they’ve been laying people off and cutting the expenditure for pesticides by about $150,000 a year, at the same time their benefits expenditure has increased. 

And no matter how many properties we own, my husband and I are limited to one vote between the two of us? And then, these votes are only “taken under consideration”? 

This looks pretty bad. I also can’t find any kind of contact information for the BCMVCD board. Another board of spoils appointees, out of the reach of public comment?

Mr. Hahn, can you please provide me with direct contact information for the BCMVCD board?  I’m not willing to go through Mr. Ball or staff, I’m guessing these board members all have county provided e-mail addresses, and the public should be able to contact them directly. This information should be on the website. 

I have included the newspaper editors because I have not seen any of the above information in stories I’ve read in the paper. 

Thank you for your anticipated response – Juanita Sumner, Chico CA  

PAUL HAHN RESPONDS (thanks Paul!)

Juanita,

 

Attached is the contact information for Board Members for the Butte County Mosquito and Vector Control District that we currently have on file.    While you are probably already aware of this, the Mosquito Abatement District is a completely separate entity from Butte County.  The only connection is that the Butte County Board of Supervisors does appoint five members of the of 11 member Governing board with the rest selected by respective City Councils.

 

I hope this answers your question.  If not, please do not hesitate to let me know.

 

Thanks,

 

 

Paul Hahn

I like to deal with Paul Hahn, he’s very professional. Cool blue ink too!  So far, I guess I have not pissed him off, he always answers me right back. What I learned here is, five of the board members are appointed by our county supervisors, that makes them responsible too.  Our city council appoints one, I think, and the others are appointed by other towns in Butte County, and I think Hamilton City. Ham City left the Glenn County abatement district when Glenn County health and human services officer Scott Gruendl raised their assessment – let’s see what they have to say about being duped into a higher assessment by Butte County. 

Talk about blood sucking PESTS! Please vote NO on mosquito tax.

1 May

DSC06284

 

I found a packet for an upcoming election in my mailbox over the weekend, and I was shocked I hadn’t heard anything about it in the print or broadcast media. Again, a local government agency is trying to stick us for their pensions and health benefits.

Like CARD, Butte County Mosquito and Vector Control District is management top heavy with employees paying as little as 1% of their own benefits out of salaries in excess of $100,000.

I found some budget information on the BCMVCD website, and e-mailed District Manager Matt Ball with some questions. He’s a real cooperative nice guy, answered immediately. According to Ball, “District employees are 100% covered and District employee family members are 80% covered under a Blue Shield high deductible plan. District employees hired on or before December 31, 2012, pay 1% of their CalPERS retirement plan.  District employees hired on or after January 1, 2013, pay 6.25% of their CalPERS retirement plan.”

We pay workman’s comp and social security for public employees,  in addition to the health insurance and pensions, I always forget to bring that up. In fact, according to annual budgets available on their website, BCMVCD laid out over $150,000 for FICA and workman’s comp last year, throwing out another $500,000+ for health insurance and pensions, just for their top 18 employees. Only 18 employees, costing the taxpayers over $2 million in salaries, then almost three quarters of a million more on health coverage and pensions.

I did not get any of this information out of the pamphlet sent to me by the district. The pamphlet, printed at our expense, is just propaganda aimed at passing the assessment. It starts out, “Why Did You Receive This Assessment Ballot?” and goes on to describe the “purpose of the Mosquito Control District” – yeah, to prevent the diseases transmitted by mosquitoes and other “vectors” or “disease bearing pests.” I’m all over that, that’s why we have a Mosquito Control District. But why are we receiving this ballot?

The next paragraph talks about funding – “The Mosquito Control District is primarily funded by a small portion of property taxes.”   Then, “significant increased cost of controlling West Nile Virus…declining property values…transfer of District revenues  by the State and County to other agencies.” Finally, “Without this additional funding, the district will have to reduce mosquito, vector and disease control services.

Ah, the repetition – these agencies always use the same tired  tactics. First they drum up fear, then they tell us how they can protect us, then finally, threaten to withdraw all protection if we don’t pay. That sounds like the plot line from some old cop show like Streets of San Francisco. Let’s call Mike Stone! Kojak!

Here’s the reason they want  this bond – they have lost over $350,000/year in RDA funding.  I could not find revenue information on the website, so I asked Matt Ball and he  obliged. The district still gets about $2 million from property and other taxes, as well as interest (on what I don’t know), and service fees. But, that $350,000 covered their health benefits, which, according to Mr. Ball, are provided to employees 100% free of cost and to their families at only 20% of cost.

And then there’s another $224,000 (figure for 2013-14) in PERS premiums, of which the employees pay less than 7 percent, most as little as 1 percent.

Let’s all remember – one RDA dollar borrowed equals three RDA dollars owed. BCMVCD has enjoyed a hefty portion of RDA fixins – about $3.5 million a year. In 2011/12, they got more than twice as much – $733,404.09. Good Grief Charley Brown – since 2007, they’ve received over $2.5 million in RDA dollars – get out the calculator Pa – that’s almost $8 million dollars, gone to their pensions and benefits, for 18  employees over six years. Eight million dollars. 

Throughout this period, property tax and related revenues have continued to climb steadily, despite BCMVCD’s complaint that property values have gone down. 

Like every other agency around here, BCMVCD had become overly comfortable with spending borrowed money on themselves.  I don’t think it’s uncivil in any way to say “feathering their own nests”  – what else would you call these pensions, for which they contribute less than 10 percent, but a sweet feathered nest?

Worst of all, they not only line their nest with borrowed money, they do it at the expense of services and staff. Acording to Mr. Ball, “Last July the District laid off two full-time permanent employees and has cut its seasonal workforce from 14-10.”  He also mentioned that district employees have not received a pay raise for three years, and their current Memo of Understanding with the county leaves them without a raise this year. But, in the budgets I see on the website, the health benefits and pensions payments continued to increase, even as the salary total went down. 

Of course, as you’d expect, the biggest single expense after employee compensation is for pesticides. A lot of people are against the use of pesticides in mosquito abatement, many would simply like to see more responsible use.  I think reasonable people would agree that some use of poisons is necessary to protect the human population in cases of gross infestation. But, there are plenty of alternatives, including, getting rid of their breeding areas through public clean-up campaigns. I wonder, has the department been utilizing more alternative measures to fight this claimed increase in the West Nile threat? Or, has the cost of pesticides like pyrethrin been going down lately? I wonder because, over the past three years, BCMVCD has been spending less and less money on pesticides. 

You can see the budget information here:

http://www.bcmvcd.com/current_fiscal_budgets/14%20Final%20Budget.pdf

And here’s John Chiang’s website with salary information:

http://www.publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/SpecialDistricts/SpecialDistrict.aspx?entityid=1663&fiscalyear=2012

I’m sorry to sprout such a blob on you, but I like to think you are intelligent people who need all the facts to make your decisions. Yes, I know mosquitoes carry disease, that’s why I clean my rain gutters and look around my yard at this time of year for anything that holds a little skanky water. In the pamphlet and on their website, BCMVCD urge you to turn in your neighbor with the green swimming pool – why don’t they tell you to clean your rain gutters? Why don’t they warn you, don’t leave your recycling can, open, outside behind the garage? Maybe they should tell people how much rainwater can get into an upright soda or beer or water bottle left next to a patio chair or a recycling bin, or how many mosquito larvae/pupae can live in that much water, and how quickly they go from egg to fully capable blood sucker.

I really don’t think they are interested in educating people, their pamphlet is clearly biased toward  getting money to pay their benefits and pensions.

Here’s the nutshell version: VOTE NO!