A controversial mosquito abatement fog spraying program in which the chemical malathion is used will continue in Sevier County.

That is the decision of the County Commission following a meeting at which pros and cons of the program were aired.Most of the 40 people who attended the meeting supported the program, although opponents want the issue placed on the commissioner's agenda for discussion.

Commissioners promised to continue looking at alternatives to the current mosquito abatement program. Commissioner Jerry Nice said creating a special service district for mosquito control, possibly using other methods, would cost much more than the $45,000 now budgeted for the program.

Commissioner Merlin Ashman was recently charged with appointing a committee to study the program after complaints were received from those who oppose it. He added that another chemical has been tried but wasn't effective, dissipating in about 20 minutes.

Opponents of the program live mostly in the south Sevier area, some of them moving to the county after the mosquito population exploded and before the spraying program was started. They contend that the malathion may be toxic and result in health problems. Those who support the spraying claim mosquitoes created greater health concerns than the chemical.

Health officials say the chemical isn't dangerous and have voiced fears about encephalitis, which can be caused from mosquito bites. The Central Utah Health Department monitored the encephalitis potential in years past by using chickens, which are readily susceptible to the disease.

Opponents have used local media extensively in airing and discussing their views. A few opinions have also been related by proponents.

After the issue was brought to the forefront by the opposition, a petition in support of malathion spraying was circulated in the south Sevier area. Some 500 signatures were obtained, urging the commission to continue spraying. The move was spearheaded by Joseph resident Alice Peterson, who said "If had my way, they would spray in between the two spray-ings."

Before the program was started, mosquitoes were so prevalent that they virtually eliminated recreation at parks and the Richfield Cove View Golf Course and curtailed gardening and other outdoor activities. Many residents complained they were allergic to the pests and that faces, arms and legs of children who played outdoors became swollen.

Whitney Stewart, mosquito abatement supervisor, said there are other ways to control the insects, but they would be more costly. He noted the county uses two basic methods to get rid of the mosquitoes, spraying and dropping granules into dead water areas. He said the latter method could be expanded, but the county doesn't have the money. Some stagnant waters are also drained by the county to discourage mosquito hatches.