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Dallas: Good Early Report On Aerial Spraying; Council Wants Better Plan Next Time

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It appears aerial mosquito spraying over Dallas worked. City officials say there were no West Nile infected mosquitoes in a small sample of traps retrieved afterwards. That’s good preliminary news, but Dallas City Council members want better planning for next year’s West Nile virus season.

A couple of Dallas Council members say they didn’t have answers when constituents came to them with questions about the West Nile virus outbreak and the city, county and state response.

North Dallas councilwoman Ann Margolin says her headaches began even before the declared public health emergency and controversial aerial spraying.

“I had some extremely frustrated neighborhoods who wanted to be sprayed,” said Margolin. “And they were asking me how can I get sprayed. And it was like hitting my head against a wall.”

Margolin says she got no response from the city Code Department or the County Judge. She did get an apology from City Manager Mary Suhm at a West Nile update. Suhm says new data from the Centers for Disease Control team on the ground in North Texas will help the city improve its responsiveness and communication next time.

“We’re going to ask them to look at the number of the traps. We’re going to ask them to look at our methodology,” said Suhm. “And I think we need to spend some time talking to you and identifying what the concerns are.”

Councilman Jerry Allen says there was too much confusion about when the aerial spraying would take place.

“How am I going to tell my people? How am I going to notify them? You’re gonna spray, I thought you said 10 o’clock, now it’s 9 o’clock,” said Allen.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings is hoping to get a preliminary assessment of the city’s response to West Nile from the CDC team by the end of this week.

“They’re going to be the science and kind of tell us what we did right, what we did wrong, how can we do better next time,” said Rawlings. “Look, we’re not going to get into the spring and not have our act together on this.”

A full report from the CDC is expected in November.

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.