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Council studies WNV concerns

The West Nile Virus has been a dominant news story during the past several months and during its regular meeting on Tuesday evening, the Andalusia City Council heard an update on the virus.

Andalusia native Terry Kyzar, who is the Environmental Health Supervisor for the Covington County Health Department, and who works with the Covington, Butler and Lowndes health departments, addressed the council on many aspects of the virus, including the actual history of the virus.

He noted the virus was first detected in 1937 in the West Nile province of Uganda and first was noted in the United States in 1999, and may have first been transported into the country by ships or planes.

Kyzar said as of August 7 in the U.S., there had been 109 human cases listed and five deaths, and that as of Monday, there were five human cases of the virus in Alabama in four counties and no deaths.

Approximately 34 pools of mosquitoes in six counties had been reported, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health web site, said Kyzar, 552 cases of birds that tested positive thus far this year for the virus and five horses in 42 counties.

He said last week he and Andalusia Street Supervisor Jim Hogg traveled to three sites in Andalusia looking for mosquito larvae and failed to find mosquito larvae.

"There are probably mosquitoes in Andalusia, but we didn't find the larvae, or adult mosquitoes (at the three sites inspected)," said Kyzar. "We did standard methods (of testing) where we beat on bushes and looked at pants to see how many mosquitoes were laying on them."

He said he recommended to Hogg that Hogg or someone connected to the city join the Alabama Vector Management Society, which provides training for controlling disease-causing vectors.

"(The virus) is one of those emerging ones that is here and we are going to have to deal with it," said Kyzar. "The public can practice personal protection in mosquito control."

He said those who find dead birds can call the Covington County Health Department, but added the department is only testing crows, jays and raptors.

On the issue of drainage of swamp areas and low-lying areas of water that may contain fish or other type of aquatic life, Kyzar said if there is a healthy area of wetlands that has no mosquito larvae, and if those areas were to be drained, this would create pockets of water and could create biological problems.

Regarding the federal issue of draining wetlands which are prohibited from being drained without permission of engineers and city officials, Kyzar said those areas are prohibited from being drained due to ecological factors.

Mayor Earl Johnson noted the city is spraying nightly for mosquitoes and trying to extend that effort to cover the city at least once a week.

"We have sent out a memorandum to all department heads to ask all outside personnel to be on the lookout for stagnant water, which would breed mosquitoes because you don't have any animal life there," said Johnson. "We are asking our citizens to be on the lookout for stagnant water you might find around your house, in your drain pipes on your roof or in pet bowls or old tires. This is where the mosquito larvae breeds and we don't have the manpower or the resources to canvass the whole city looking for those types of situations. If somebody tells us about one, we'll go look at it, but we don't have the manpower to go out and look for it."

Other business

In other business discussed at Tuesday's meeting, the Andalusia City Council:

Awarded the bid for Community Enhancement Act No. LR-CE-PF-01-018 for an Adult Activity Center to Catrett Construction. Johnson said the city had received a good number of bids. The amount of Catrett's low bid was for $424,980. Councilman Harry Hinson noted that perhaps all of the project will be paid for through a grant and donations.

Approved appropriating funds for a project involving Service Zone for $10,500. Johnson said the money covers 30 percent of the amount spent so far on a new pad to place another building if and when Service Zone opted to expand. Johnson said hopefully will use the pad to build a new building soon. Johnson said the city had agreed to fund the pad when the company opted to located in Andalusia. The money will be transferred out of the city's contingency funds. He noted that Service Zone has completed its first training class and has started its second training class.

Approved a resolution to authorize payment of wastewater treatment plant improvements with tax-free loan proceeds. City clerk Pam Steele explained that a similar process had been used with the East Three Notch City Hall project. She said the process will allow the city to be able to reimburse the general fund for any expenses the city incurs with improvements being made at the plant site with tax-free loan dollars.The process does not obligate the city to reimburse the general fund but simply gives the city that particular option.

Authorized Johnson to execute a sewer connection with a property owner south of the city limits to tie onto the city's sewer system. The owner has agreed to pay all expenses with the hook-up and all necessary connections. The owner will pay the city a fee for hooking onto the sewer and delivering sewage to the city's system.

Tabled a resolution to come under provisions of Act 2002-1028 or a Retirement DROP Program. Johnson explained that the program allows eligible employees to contract with the Employees Retirement System (ERS) to defer payment of their retirement while continuing employment for a specified period of time. When the employee withdraws from active service, the employee would be eligible for monthly retirement benefits, based upon the employee years of service and credit at the time the employee enrolled in the DROP program, plus a lump sum payment of the amount in the employees DROP account. Johnson said he has questions about the expense of the program to the city, although he thinks the program could potentially be a beneficial

one for the city.

Approved amending a job description of city employee Francis Castleberry, who is also a contract employee for the city's planning commission. Johnson noted the commission meets after hours, but Castleberry works on a contract basis to avoid an overtime situation.

Approved transferring $5,644 from contingency funds to replace the air conditioning unit at the city's library.

Heard from Johnson that there will be an informal ceremony on Sept. 11 at the Courthouse Square at noon to remember the events of last year's acts of terrorism. Johnson said the public is invited and there will be a gathering with ministers and other speakers. There will be a religious service after the civil service, Johnson said, the public is also welcome to attend.

Heard from Hinson that through the first ten months of the current administrative year that sales taxes are up 3.66 percent in Andalusia. Johnson noted that taxes were also up last year from the year before.

Approved the minutes from the August 7 meeting.