Gypsy Moth Spraying Costs Anger Luzerne County Property Owners

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Jackson Township, Luzerne County — “I’m not going to pay $502. I don’t know of anybody in this area who would go and pay $502.” Richard Belmont of Jackson Township can’t believe the bill he received October 31st from the Luzerne County Engineer’s Office. He and several neighbors on Chase Road recently applied to a state-run program coordinated through Luzerne County to have their properties sprayed in 2016 for Gypsy Moth Caterpillars. At $55 per acre, Mr. Belmont figured it would cost him and his neighbors about $100 dollars or so each considering their relatively small individual acreage. “It should be feasible but when you’re charging $502 for every one of our homes and we only have an acre and a half, that’s not feasible.”

Neighbor Bob Kocher wanted to preserve hundreds of trees around his home including an estimated 100 year old oak that gypsy moths feasted on last spring. But he said the spraying cost laid out in the letter he received is both prohibitive and puzzling. “Oh, we’re not going to do it based upon the dollar amount and without any explanation how they arrived at the dollar amount. Why would I give them that much money?”

Luzerne County Staff Engineer Keri Skvarla, who is also the county’s gypsy moth coordinator, says the price that is shocking property owners is based on the fact that the state won’t spray in blocks smaller than 23 acres. “The state has determined over years of experience that a 500 foot buffer around that residence is necessary,” she said.

Ms. Skvarla added that the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources determined the cost to spray properties based on neighborhood participation. “I can’t send a bill to someone who didn’t apply to the program. So people who only own a smaller parcel of land are picking up acreage for those around them but it’s what’s necessary to protect their residence.”

Nearly 1,300 Luzerne County property owners received the Gypsy Moth spraying bills. They can choose to not participate in the program but if they do, the bill must be paid by November 15th with the check made out to “County of Luzerne” and mailed to Luzerne County Engineering Office, 200 North River St., Wilkes-Barre, PA, 18711.

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