Grand Jury Gives Vector Control District Generally High Marks

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The Orange County civil grand jury this week issued a report that in general gave high marks to the county Vector Control District.

However, the agency charged with protecting public from diseases caused by mosquito, rat, ant, and flea infestations, needs to shrink its board of trustees, upgrade its computer system and communicate better with other county agencies, the report said.

The report described the 65-year-old agency as “a well-run and well-resourced operation fulfilling its core mission.” Its laboratory tests for typhus, West Nile virus, hantavirus, malaria and fleas that carry diseases.

The report noted the $10.6-million organization has a 35-member board of trustees — all of them elected officials representing each city in the county and the Board of Supervisors — to oversee 55 permanent employees. It urged the district to scale back the number of trustees and make the appointees nonelected officials who have a background in biology or related health expertise.

Board members receive $100 for attending the monthly board meeting. That is the only compensation for serving as a trustee.

It also recommended the district update its computer systems so that inspectors don’t have to deal with multiple, uncoordinated computer programs.

More coordination also is needed between the Vector Control District’s laboratory and laboratories run by the county Health Care Agency and the county agricultural commissioner’, the grand jury concluded.

Better collaboration would “enhance the sharing of health hazards, threats and related scientific expertise.”

The grand jury urged the district to start issuing citations to individuals, real estate agencies and banks that “refuse to maintain swimming pools under their control.”

It stated there are more than 3,000 abandoned swimming pools throughout Orange County “that are basically unattended breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Considerable time is devoted to treating and following up on the condition of these pools,” and it would save taxpayer money if citations were issued to those responsible for their maintenance.

The grand jury also urged the district to work with cities and the county to find an “immediate” way to post information to city web sites if an important public health issue develops.

But overall, the grand jury concluded, the district works well, although “the overwhelming majority” of Orange County residents know little or nothing about it.

The report recommended the district hire a public relations firm to inform the public about its work.

— TRACY WOOD

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