As summer approaches and temperatures — and mosquito populations — begin to rise, the city-parish is trying to ease concerns over the threat posed by the Zika virus.
Linked to birth defects, Zika has caused concern in Central and South America. The virus is transmitted by mosquito bites, but the Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control Office is prepared for the pests, entomologist Randy Vaeth said.
“We feel confident that we have a pretty well-honed machine for controlling (mosquitoes),” he said.
The abatement office is building new lab space to test for viruses such as Zika from mosquito samples. However, the parish doesn’t plan to make any changes to existing spraying procedures, Vaeth said.
The abatement program has two planes and 10 truck-mounted spraying units. Road crews began their routes last month and are expected to spray Monday through Saturday into November. The planes can spray another 20,000 acres at night, especially areas farther off the beaten path.
Two species of Louisiana mosquitoes can carry Zika, Vaeth said. The Aedes aegypti — or yellow fever mosquito — was largely supplanted by the arrival of the Asian tiger mosquito in the 1980s, the entomologist explained.
Fortunately for Zika control, the Asian species has a short range, so if a parish sprays thoroughly, there is little threat of other insects migrating into the area, Vaeth said.
However, the parish isn’t likely to eradicate mosquitoes anytime soon, and Vaeth urged residents to cover up exposed skin, wear insect repellent and empty containers with standing water where the insects lay their eggs.
Health care advocates plan event in north BR
In their quest to bring an emergency room to north Baton Rouge, a group of advocates for the area will host a building tour next Thursday, April 28, at The Offices at Champion Medical Center.
East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Councilwoman Chauna Banks-Daniel and her #NBRNOW Blue Ribbon Commission are hosting the event, and they say they have invited health care providers, insurance providers and other stakeholders to be part of it. Banks-Daniel said they plan to lay out their plans for creating health care services and funding those services during the tour.
“We’ll see how many people will be excited about health care coming to north Baton Rouge,” Banks-Daniel said.
Baton Rouge’s local health care providers at Our Lady of the Lake, Baton Rouge General and Lane Regional Medical Center have previously said they do not believe north Baton Rouge needs an emergency room, and that health care in other parts of the city-parish is strong enough to anchor everyone.
The Offices at Champion Medical Center near the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport in north Baton Rouge are owned by Dallas-based Cambridge Holdings Inc. Cambridge has been trying to lease more than 30,000 square feet of space in the building.
The center originally opened in 2005 as the Greater Baton Rouge Surgical Hospital. It closed in 2012 after losing millions of dollars without receiving enough patient volume. It later became Champion Medical Center.
Mayor-President Kip Holden said in a recent interview that the past failure of the Greater Baton Rouge Surgical Hospital should indicate providers are not likely to be successful in building there.
“Why hasn’t somebody sat down with those doctors and said, ‘Tell me what happened?’ ” Holden said.
A different kind of library for Baton Rouge?
If it ever gets built, the South Branch Library could wind up looking decidedly unusual.
Library Director Spencer Watts said the parish system has been looking to build a branch in the area for at least 12 years. Last November, the parish Library Board of Control hired a real estate broker to help find land for the long-desired building somewhere inside the area bounded by Perkins Road, Kenilworth Parkway, Burbank Drive and Stanford Avenue.
But as with the heroine of a popular children’s story, none of the properties so far have been just right.
There have been issues with size, access roads, train tracks, flood plains, peculiar shaped plots, noise and neighbors.
Now library leaders are looking to get weird.
During their meeting last month, assistant library director Patricia Husband presented libraries from Louisiana to Baghdad that have contended with design challenges.
There’s the Virginia branch built in an old train station, the tiny triangle-shaped building in crowded San Francisco and the Houston library that’s squeezed between a freeway and a working ranch. There are skinny libraries, a branch on top of an Alaskan parking garage and one that shares part of a five-story office and retail building.
During their meeting Thursday, several board members said they were willing to look at properties that may not appear library-friendly because after years of searching for the perfect spot, it’s getting time to fish or cut bait.
“This is kind of a last shot,” said board member Kathy Wascom.
The issue came to a head at the meeting because the board had to decide whether to retain the firm searching for library property. The firm is working on commission, so it was a philosophical, rather than financial decision.
Ultimately, the board decided to continue the yearslong search — at least for awhile. They gave brokerage firm Sperry Van Ness/Graham, Langlois & Legendre, LLC a six-month extension. Board President Kizzy Payton said the board and brokers need to sit down and start eliminating plots they don’t like and focusing on sites with potential.
“It’s time for progress,” she said.
Advocate staff writers Steve Hardy and Andrea Gallo contributed to this article.