City Votes to Fire Mosquito Control Company

JONESBORO, AR -- Vermalene Smith lives in Jonesboro. She says the mosquitoes here are out of control.

"I think they're worse this year than they've been in several years," says Smith.

And she isn't so sure that the city is doing everything possible to treat the problem.

"I think they are working very aggressively trying to get rid of them although I don't know that it's been as successful as it has been in the past," says Smith.

Vermalene isn't the only Jonesboro resident complaining about the mosquito problem here. The list of frustrated citizens complaining is quite long.

"Through the mayor's office, we've received literally hundreds of calls over probably the last three weeks," says Mayor Doug Formon.

And that's what brought the heated issue to the table as the council and mayor met Tuesday night in the Public Safety Committee Meeting. Many Jonesboro citizens have recently questioned the effectiveness of Clarke Mosquito Control, the new company hired this year to tackle the mosquitoes in Jonesboro.

"We knew they were new coming into town and we knew we'd be a little bit of a learning curve, but we can't wait until the entire mosquito season is over for them what our problems are here in Jonesboro. We've got to get on it and get it fixed, "says Mayor Formon.

On June 19th, during the last Public Safety Committee Meeting, the city alerted Clarke that the problem was out of control and many residents didn't feel their treatments were doing much good.

"It just never got any better. It didn't appear anyway to be getting any better. In conversations that we had with Clarke, most of the time it seemed that they were more reactive than proactive with the mosquitoes. They said they weren't spraying some areas at all unless the trap counts would rise," says Mayor Formon.

So, the issue came to a vote. The committee voted 3 to 2 to recommend the termination of the Clarke contract to the full council. The council voted to notify Clarke that they would be ending the contract within 30 days.

"Naturally, I was disappointed because I don't feel that we've been given a fair shake," says Joel Fruendt with Clarke.

Joel Fruendt is the General Manager of Clarke Mosquito Control, the Chicago-based company.

"We base our business on science and one of the things that you base it on are the trap counts. If you look, this is a very high year for mosquitoes. If you look at the trap data from this to last year, it's up significantly, so I wish that would have been taken into consideration," says Fruendt.

Numerous times during the meeting, the council referred to Vector, the company previously contracted with the city. They noted that throughout the many years with Vector, they city received very few complaints.

"I don't think that it's a fair comparison because each year is different and all that we can go by is the science of it," says Fruendt.

Basically, Clarke Mosquito Control feels they weren't given a chance.

"Could it be the fact that somebody's still getting mosquito bites in certain areas, absolutely. This is mosquito control. It's not mosquito elimination," adds Fruendt.

As far as the money end of the deal with Clarke and the hiring of Vector, the council will be calling a special meeting very soon to discuss the details.