A segment of Monday night’s Indianola Board of Aldermen meeting was abuzz with dialogue about the city’s mosquito control efforts and the city leaders voted unanimously to hire Vector Disease Control International to take on the task of keeping the meandering menaces at bay.
The issue of choosing a contractor arose at the April 22 meeting when a representative from America’s Choice Chemical Company rolled out their proposal for attacking the pests; however, the decision was tabled and revisited at the first meeting in May.
Although at that session the Aldermen decided to use the sealed bid process after Alderman Sam Brock raised the question of whether the contract should be simply awarded to America’s Choice or opened up for other proposals. He said then, “With the kind of money we’re talking about spending here, is this an item that should be bid out?”
The first plan proposed by America’s Choice would have cost the city $90,000 annually and they wanted a two-year contract. However, Mayor Steve Rosenthal indicated at the May 13 session that he had negotiated with America’s Choice and they reduced the initial amount to $85,000.
Rosenthal told Brock and the others that taking bids might be the preferable way, but was not legally required because it was considered professional services.
Alderman Gary Fratesi said then that although he too agreed with Brock, he would make a motion to go ahead and accept the proposal with the stipulation that it was due to emergency conditions. However, Brock refuted Fratesi’s claim and the motion failed 3 to 2.
A question about fairness was raised since any new vendors would already know how much America’s Choice had proposed. Nevertheless, the decision was made and after opening the bids from America’s Choice and Vector, Vector had the lower cost of $61,575 for the first year and $83,945 for the subsequent annual renewal.
On Monday before the vote, Fratesi asked about any legal ramifications. “We already opened one bid and it was public information now you got another that’s gonna come in under, are we setting ourselves up for a lawsuit?”
Rosenthal indicated that he had discussed the matter with City Attorney Gary Austin. “Mr. Austin felt like he didn’t like the idea (of) what we were doing, but it didn’t seem to be illegal,” Rosenthal said. “The other company did lower theirs as well, but not as low as this,” he added.
Brett Killingsworth, Business Development Representative, Vector Disease Control International fielded a myriad of questions from the Mayor and Aldermen regarding his procedure and processes. First, Rosenthal asked him to clarify the provision, “as needed.” Killingsworth responded, “As needed usually means what’s in the mosquito traps, citizens’ complaints and whatever ya’ll tell us to do.”
Alderman Ruben Woods inquired about the types of chemicals used, their expected effect and what would be the action plan. Killingsworth said in the beginning his crew will ride the streets, survey the ditches, see what is and is not draining, find out where the mosquitoes are breeding and perform a larvicide treatment throughout the city.
During the course of the inquiries, Killingsworth explained that the sources normally thought to be problems such as the bayous and ponds are not necessarily the most challenging, especially if they have fish and minnows in them because the fish eat the mosquitoes, according to Killingsworth.
He asserted that standing water in abandoned tires, birdbaths and abandoned swimming pools are worse breeding grounds for mosquitoes. “All of that stuff breeds mosquitoes like crazy,” he said. Educating the public is also a part of the proposed plan.
Brock wanted to know who the citizens should call in case they need to report problem areas and Rosenthal said that although residents have a tendency to call several places, including the public works department, the calls that come in to city hall are logged in.
Killingsworth assured the board that his company would go to work as soon as the contract is signed. This fiscal year the city leaders had budgeted $75,000 for mosquito control, which is the amount generated by the $1.75 fee added to the customers’ water bill.