Voters OK Mosquito Abatement

Hollister
– San Benito County voters have approved a mosquito abatement
program funded through a property tax.
Hollister – San Benito County voters have approved a mosquito abatement program funded through a property tax.

Voters passed the program’s special ballot 62.88 percent to 37.12 percent, and the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to certify the results at its Tuesday meeting. San Benito County Agricultural Commissioner Paul Matulich will ask for the board’s approval of a new mosquito control position under the program.

The program will require an annual budget of about $120,000 paid from the assessment. Hollister, San Juan Bautista, Aromas, Paicines and Tres Pinos would get services.

County health officials proposed the program because mosquitoes pose health risks such as West Nile virus, different types of encephalitis and malaria.

A woman died of West Nile virus July 13 in Kern County, according to the California Department of Public Health. She was the first to die from the virus this year in California. No human cases have been reported in San Benito County, but the virus has been found in a bird and horses.

The program would help reduce health risks through a full-time mosquito control position, Matulich said.

“Most people, I think, thought it was a good program,” Matulich said. “Protect the old people and young people.”

Supervisor Pat Loe said the program is an important health and safety issue for the county.

“I do think the people of San Benito County wanted to form the abatement district and are willing to pay for it,” Loe said.

If the ballot had passed by a narrower margin, Loe said, the county would have had to reassess implementing the fee.

Property owners will have to pay up to $9.60 a year for a single-family residence.

Those who oppose the ballot argued that the county should not have been able to cast its votes for the property it owns. Matulich said the margin of victory legitimized the ballot.

The county board of supervisors and Hollister City Council both cast ballots in favor of the program for property each respective agency holds.

“Even if they took out the county and the city assessments, it would have still passed,” Matulich said, adding that it would have passed “even if they voted no.”

Marvin Jones, a Hollister resident and chairman of the San Benito County Republican Party, said various government boards in the county had about 800 ballots to cast, more than the 754-ballot margin by which it passed.

“It is perfectly legal for the county to vote their votes,” Jones said. “There is a question of ethics when a supervisor has a vested interest in an item that comes before the board.”

Jones also argued against the ballot because the program has no end date, and that the fees can be changed without further analysis.

Matulich said the board will continue to evaluate the program.

“It’s all in their ballpark,” Matulich said. “Every year it gets evaluated.”

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