Dallas council airs gripes about West Nile response

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on August 27, 2012 at 6:19 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 28 at 3:27 PM

DALLAS — Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said Monday that the Centers for Disease Control is doing a detailed analysis of how North Texas local governments responded to the West Nile virus outbreak, but that the report won't be ready for two months.

Any future city plan on prevention and eradication will wait until that report is complete.

But the City Council learned Monday there are other areas that need work right now.

Faced with a sudden health crisis, the city urged people to call 311 for information. But some council members like Delia Jasso heard that not all 311 operators were helpful.

"As minimal as they might be, or as dumb as they might sound — because I have those same dumb questions — they'd better be responding to our constituents in a respectful, intelligent way," Jasso said.

Although council members heard of patient 311 operators when a North Dallas resident called about a water line break leaving standing water he felt could breed mosquitoes, council member Sandy Greyson said it was just a bad experience.

"They called 311 and got a truly cranky lady on the phone," Greyson said about her constiutent's complaint. "And she never bothered submitting his request for somebody to come out and do a fix."

When some northwest Dallas neighborhoods along creeks wanted ground spraying, a request by their council member, Ann Margolin, went nowhere.

"I tried Code; I tried calling the county judge; and I got no response, so I had nothing to bring back to my communities," Margolin said.

Margolin later after the briefing corrected her statement that Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins office had been contacted.  Margolin said her staff did not make the call after all.

Regarding her frustration with city Code Enforcement Department, the Assistant City Manager who oversees Code, Joey Zapata, responded, "We follow the state and the federal government's guidance, and spray areas where we have positive traps." 

City Manager Mary Suhm said the staff must be more thorough. She hopes the CDC's advice can help, and offered an apology.

Mayor Mike Rawlings agreed the city can do better.

"I didn't want to forget about these things; I wanted to get them in real time, get feedback to the city manager's office, so that we can make sure that we're better next year," the mayor said.

But some City Council members want improvements to come more quickly.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com

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