Are We Getting Our Money's Worth?

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Amidst the fog of mosquito spraying trucks, you're still likely to hear some Jonesboro residents like Ed Wiseman saying this...

"The mosquitoes here are worse than we have ever experienced them, and we've been here for 40 years."

He lives in South Jonesboro and says the mosquitos are affecting he and his family's daily lifestyle.

"We have to run fans in the exit doors of our house to keep the mosquitos from coming in as people enter and exit the doors," said Wiseman.

He and his family live in a cul-de-sac, which is a side street to his larger neighborhood, and he says he has recently seen the mosqito spraying trucks skip his street.

"I couldn't see smoke in any direction, anywhere in our cul-de-sac. However, the main thoroughfare, which is less than a couple of hundred yards, was extremely full. I'm not up every night at 12 o'clock to see whether that happens or not, but I certainly saw that happen," said Wiseman.

In a Region Eight News investigation we wanted to see just how little or much our local spraying company, Vector Disease Control was really doing.

On Wednesday night, we sat across the street from Vector until their trucks left out for their nightly spraying, and then we fell in line with one truck heading right to the hot-spot, South Jonesboro.

Our first chance to catch the truck spraying was in a neighborhood just off Crowley's Ridge Drive.

What we also found were residents wanting answers.

In our video you can see resident Ryan Sheets approach the spraying truck to question the driver.

"Tell me why you were going up to her a second ago and talking to her," I asked.  "Because I live on Penny Lane. This is my parent's house which is on Elk Horn, and they haven't sprayed out here. That's the first time I've seen them all year. I was just asking her where and when they were spraying, and where they were going next," replied Sheets.  I then asked, "What did she tell you?"  Shees replied, "She told me they were rezoning, and this was the first time they'd been out here, and that they were trying to figure out what streets they were going to go to next."

As we followed the truck around, we would soon find that only a couple of more residential streets would make the spraying list.   In fact, the truck turned off it's sprayer until it got to the Southside Softball Complex where it sprayed repeatedly, even though there were no games.

Then from there we would find the truck making its rounds through the Jonesboro Human Development Center.  Yet, both of these locations were not deemed as residential streets, so are we really getting our money's worth?

"The moquito problem is real. It's worse than it's ever been. We're paying more money for it, and we've got more mosquitos," said Wiseman.

After we followed the truck around we went to Vector Disease Control to show them what we found.  So what did they have to say about this hit and miss spraying pattern?

"If they see a truck that's not going up and down each street, or if it missed their house, or if it's there for a few minutes and leaves, they are probably on a special call," said contract manager Jim Stark.

Those special calls are called service requests and Vector says they respond to 10 to 15 of these a night, and usually make these calls as the night starts.  Meanwhile, Stark says they are still spraying just as much as always, and claims the proof is easy to see.

"If we cut back, even just a little bit, on our nightly spraying, then you are going to see the difference," said Stark.

But those residents like Ed Wiseman said they could see the difference.

"I clearly saw the fact that they obviously weren't down my street during the same time they were providing service for the rest of the main thoroughfare," said Wiseman.

For that reason we visited City Hall to show Mayor Doug Formon the video and get his reaction.

After all, it is taxpayer money that is providing this service.

"A lot of people expect, I'm paying for mosquito control, I want them eliminated. I want them completely gone, but that's just not going to be possible around here," said Formon.

However, just down the road in Newport, a city with a population and square mileage considerably smaller than Jonesboro, they are using seven spray trucks, six nights a week.

Here in Jonesboro, there are four trucks only running three to four nights a week.

However, Stark says on nights when there is a need, the trucks keep on running.

"If I see that we've got a lot of service requests that night. Then my drivers, I'll have them stay out late," said Stark.

But could that extra time turn into a waste of money to the city?

"Anything after 11:30 or 12:00, we're just kind of driving around blowing our chemical out," said Stark.

He says this is because while they are still present, the number of mosquitos greatly diminishes.

So, if service calls are taking longer than normal, it would seem that the neighborhoods are getting the short end of the stick.

"That is a fine line right there, because you have to please the people that call in, and you have to try and please the people that didn't call in," said Stark.

Even the mayor says nobody will ever be completely satisfied when it comes to mosquito control.

"If you have 30 of them biting you, that's bad, but if you have three biting you, that's bad too. It's going to be uncomfortable no matter what. If you've got one of those boogers after you, you are going to be uncomfortable," said Formon.

But when comfort comes with a price tag of nearly 400-thousand dollars a year, are we effectively fighting the bite?

"There's always something we can improve on," said Stark.  "Do you feel like you are doing the best you can with the resources you have to work with," I asked.  "I feel like we are doing the best we can. Yes," replied Stark.

On Tuesday night the Vector plane was in town doing aerial sprays.

There are three more of those scheduled for this contract year.

Meanwhile, Vector has a GPS tracking system in their trucks that shows what streets are and are not being sprayed.

If you feel yours has been missed you can call them at 870-933-6939.

*Note that this number may have been misprinted in some phone books, but the one listed above is correct.

Vector was recontracted to the City of Jonesboro last fall after the City terminated their contract with Clarke Mosquito Control.

Again their contract with the City of Jonesboro sits at just under 400-thousand dollars.

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