A long-running mix-up involving the Delta County Mosquito Control District #1 (District #1) and a half dozen departments of county government has some residents of Orchard City complaining they are not getting services they have paid taxes to receive.
Dozens of home owners living on Cory Bench at the south end of Orchard City have paid property tax assessments since the special district was formed in 1966.
But for an undetermined number of years (beginning in 2004 or earlier) they have not received any spraying in their neighborhood.
In addition, some have been told by District #1 personnel that they aren't eligible for service because they don't live within the district boundaries. All the while the county has collected their tax payments and remitted the money to District #1.
District #1 is formed as a special district, is not a part of the county government, and is not overseen by the Board of County Commissioners.
A resident of Cory Bench, in an e-mail to the DCI, stated she was told in 2008 that her home isn't in the district. But she and her husband pay over $180 annually in property tax assessments to District #1.
The situation came to light last Wednesday, Sept. 12, when residents of Cory Bench came to their town board with complaints.
Betty Davis told the Orchard City town board how recently she had called District #1 with a request for spray service. She was refused and told her house isn't in the district. "District #1 is making a (financial) killing and we're getting nothing," Davis said.
What followed, she explained, was a visit to the county courthouse where she "got the runaround" through multiple departments trying to straighten the matter out, but with no success. "County GIS (geographic information systems department) and the assessor aren't on the same page," she said.
Mayor Don Suppes commiserated with his constituents. By paying taxes and not getting service, "you people have been wronged," he said.
Suppes distributed maps during the town board's meeting which he said were official county versions that clearly show Cory Bench outside the boundaries of District #1. He promised to get involved. "Tomorrow morning the county commissioners' ears will be burning and I'll be the one behind it," he said.
Two days later, on Friday, Sept. 14, a meeting of elected county officials and department heads was convened by county commissioner Bruce Hovde at the courthouse in Delta. Present were the county clerk, the elections director, county GIS director, two board members and staff of Mosquito Control District #1, the county treasurer, county assessor's office, county administration, and the county health department. Mayor Suppes was not present nor were any residents of Cory Bench. Orchard City was represented by the town clerk.
Maps were presented at that meeting showing a very different boundary line for District #1 than the maps distributed at the Orchard City meeting two days earlier. The county's map version showed the Cory Bench both completely inside and completely outside the District #1 boundary. No one was able to give a clear explanation for multiple versions of the county maps showing different district boundary lines. The meeting room was filled with bemused silence. Heads shook.
Apparently Mosquito Control District #1 has, for an unknown length of time, been using a map of its own boundaries that is wrong. Representatives of District #1 did not make a presentation or a statement at the Friday meeting. There was no explanation offered and no denial or dispute of the events that had been reported. A District #1 staff member confirmed that Cory Bench and Austin had been sprayed last week after complaints were received.
Hovde said that the county "puts the burden of proof on special districts" for notification of any changes in their boundary lines. Yet District #1, which covers more than 100 sq. miles, has not changed its boundary in the Cory Bench area from its founding in 1966.
The county elections department said that a "spot check" of records shows that Cory Bench residents have been eligible to vote in District #1 board elections.
The county assessor's office says that District #1 boundaries have always been clearly and accurately stated in its legal office's descriptions, so Cory Bench residents have received tax bills annually for District assessments.
Unanswered from Friday's meeting is how did District #1 get the incorrect boundary data it was using about its own district boundaries?
• How do different versions of a district boundary maps get produced and distributed when county departments have and use accurate legal descriptions of the boundaries?
• Why hasn't anyone ever noticed contradictions in the map versions before now?
• If, as was stated, District #1 did no spraying on Cory Bench at least from 2004 to 2011 when Orchard City was conducting its own aerial spraying, how long prior to 2004 did District #1 also neglect spraying on the Cory Bench?
Orchard City resident Betty Davis, who uncovered the snafu, said that after she pointed out the problems last week the district finally did a ground-based fogging the next day. The district also conducted fogging in Austin last week.
Hovde said that despite the lateness in the mosquito season there would be more fogging on Cory Bench and in Austin.
One last question being asked by some residents of Cory Bench and Austin: If taxpayers have paid their assessments and then been excluded from mosquito spray services, can they expect to get their money back from the district, as they would expect from a private business?
Hovde ventured to answer that touchy question at Friday's meeting. "There will be no tax refunds," he said.blog comments powered by Disqus