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City to join mosquito control

(ran PC edition)

City Council members on Monday night voted to bring Zephyrhills into the Pasco County Mosquito Control District, allowing for spraying within city limits and imposing a nominal property tax increase.

The city will draft a letter to county commissioners in favor of joining the district. Commissioners have the final say on expansion and are scheduled to vote on it this spring. If the plan goes ahead, Zephyrhills would begin receiving services in October.

Lance Smith was the lone council member to oppose joining the district.

"I just wonder what the rationale is," he said after the meeting. "I mean, there's mosquitoes in Florida."

Inclusion in the district carries an extra 0.25-mill property tax, or 25 cents per $1,000 of taxable property. A person with a $60,000 house, excluding the $25,000 homestead exemption, would pay $8.75 per year for the service.

City Manager Steve Spina said the district's primary concern is reducing the health threat of insect-borne diseases, such as West Nile virus and encephalitis.

Spina said workers will set traps, kill insect larvae and spray.

"They do the treatment based on what kind of bugs they find," he said. "The spraying is just one small part of what they do."

West Nile infected 28 people in Florida last year and killed two. In Pasco, birds and horses caught the virus from bug bites. No humans were infected in the county.

In other city news Monday night:

Fire chief Bob Hartwig won approval to purchase two thermal imaging cameras for $19,400. The cameras use infrared technology to identify the hottest areas inside a burning building. Firefighters can use them, even in thick smoke, to find people or the source of a fire, Hartwig said.

The department had budgeted $18,000 to purchase one camera, but was able to acquire two through a joint bid with the city of Jacksonville for $1,400 more.