The Baton Rouge Metro Council easily approved an additional $3.9 million for the construction of a new facility for the East Baton Rouge Parish Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control department.
Some of the same council members who approved the extra money on Wednesday criticized it for being excessive use of tax payer dollars earlier this year.
The pest department is planning to consolidate its facilities on the property of the Baton Rouge Metro Airport. The Metro Council recently approved $6.5 million to construct the facility which was part of a larger budget supplement approved earlier this year.
However, the contract with the previous architect Crump Wilsons was terminated after construction cost estimates increased. A new firm, RCL Architecture, provided new plans with a total cost of $8.7 million for the project.
All of the funds come from the department’s own savings collected from its dedicated property tax. So the Metro Council is effectively giving the agency authority to use its own money to build the new facility.
It appeared unclear earlier this year if the Metro Council would allow the agency to move forward with construction. In March, the council nearly refused to allow the agency to approve a $600,000 contract for planning costs associated with the new building.
Several members of the council were eyeing departments they felt were sitting on what they perceived as rich surplus funds that they felt indicated the taxes were too high.
“You’re caught in a bad political dilemma right now because we’re looking for money for facilities and other buildings and to say we’re going to spend $8, $9, $10 million dollars on a mosquito abatement building — it’s not something I can justify to my constituents,” said Mayor Pro Tem Chandler Loupe. Loupe voted against approving the funding in March along with four other council members.
The measure was narrowly approved for the planning funds.
Mosquito abatement Director Todd Walker responded at the time that the agency had long been saving for the building and was trying to avoid issuing bonds or using financing to save tax payers money.
On Wednesday, only council members Ryan Heck and Scott Wilson voted against the construction funding. Donna Collins-Lewis and Ronnie Edwards were absent.