The following letter was sent to the members of the Maplewood Township Committee and Township Administrator Joseph Manning on April 26, 2016. The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessary reflect those of the editors of VillageGreenNJ. Letters to the editor can be sent to email@example.com to be considered for publication.
At the April 19, 2016, Township Committee meeting, I commented on the recent Maplewood Health Department memo regarding the Zika virus. I am concerned about the Township’s failure to develop proactive plans protecting the local community from Zika-infected mosquitoes. According to the Township Committee’s comments, Zika prevention has been addressed adequately by the Health Department memo in conjunction with traditional Essex County services. I disagree.
The Department of Health memo suggests residents start community clean up campaigns. While we can all take measures related to mosquito suppression, it seems shortsighted to rely primarily on the citizens of Maplewood. In fact, the Township Committee maintains that citizens can’t be trusted to responsibly use leaf blowers or place temporary basketball hoops. Yet can these same locals be entrusted with preventing a Zika outbreak?
The Township Committee is also is relying on Essex County to provide mosquito suppression only when reported by township officials and after it has become an issue. I’m not confident that the County’s historical approach is sufficient in scale or that a reactive approach is the way to prevent an epidemic. New York City recently allocated an additional $2.1 million to Zika prevention. In addition, the U.S. Congress is considering $2 billion in new funding to combat the threat of Zika. Shouldn’t Maplewood and Essex county follow suit?
Maplewood’s proximity to New York City, Newark Liberty International Airport, and the South Mountain Reservation, especially amplify the risk for our community.
Already starting to impact life in our town, concerns about Zika infected mosquitoes in Maplewood are real. Families are changing vacation plans to avoid high risk areas. We all hope to enjoy the outdoor summer activities but now must consider the risk.
I urge the Township Committee to have a meaningful discussion on Maplewood’s Zika prevention strategy that includes proactive inspection and suppression. While the Township Committee may not feel any need to allocate funds, there should be careful consideration of the issue. At a minimum, plans should be developed to position the town to successfully secure potential federal and state grants.
Thank you for your consideration.
Mike Summersgill is a Maplewood resident and is currently a candidate for Township Committee.