City leaders take pay cut for WNV fight

Published 8:00 pm Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Faced with a tight budget and demand for increased mosquito control, Wesson city leaders have charted a novel course of action: take a pay cut.

     “We decided to do something a little different, a little extra,” said Alderman at Large Van Graham.

     The threat of West Nile virus has elicited concern among many Wesson residents and prompted requests for increased mosquito spraying, said Wesson Mayor Alton Shaw.

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     “The more it came out about the new infections, the more people were complaining about it,” Shaw said.

     The State Department of Health reports six confirmed cases this year of West Nile virus in Copiah County and seven cases and one WNV-related death in Lincoln County.

     However, the chemicals required for spraying are expensive, Shaw said, and thus his proposal to temporarily reduce the pay of elected officials.

     Aldermen will temporarily see a $50 cut in their monthly pay rate, from $400 down to $350. Shaw’s monthly pay will drop by $200, from $1,000 down to $800 a month.

     With five aldermen, that amounts to a total savings of $450 a month funneled into additional mosquito control.

     The pay cuts should last several months, Graham said. Cities usually phase out mosquito spraying in the early fall after colder temperatures set in.

     “The new revenue will more than double the spraying budget,” Shaw said.

     With the increased revenue, the city will be able to expand its spraying schedule from about once a week to three to five days a week, weather permitting. Shaw said residents should bear in mind that they may not always be aware of the city’s spraying efforts.

     “Just because people don’t see us spraying doesn’t mean we’re not,” Shaw said.

     The city is also using pellets placed around standing water as part of its arsenal against mosquitoes. The pellets are reported to be a more effective means of control that spraying, Shaw said.

     “We were trying to put most of our resources into the pellets, but we decided we needed to be more comprehensive,” said the mayor.

     Shaw advised residents to inform city leaders of any standing water they’re aware of.

     Shaw suggested the pay cuts, and the city’s aldermen unanimously approved them, at a recessed meeting held Aug. 23. The cuts took effect immediately, Shaw said.

     Graham said he’s gotten positive response, but doesn’t think many people know about the increased spraying yet.

     “Bad news travels faster than good news,” Graham said.