As Livingston Parish’s mosquito abatement program winds down, a handful of municipalities are gearing up to battle the bugs on their own, with donated equipment and a crash course in abatement from the parish program’s director.
Jeanine Tessmer said she expects to deliver to parish officials a closet’s worth of documents, a file server, about $100,000 in funds and her lone remaining employee within the next month or so. That is all that will remain of the parishwide abatement program after two failed tax proposals and the expiration of an assessment fee effectively defunded the operation.
In its absence, four municipalities — Denham Springs, Walker, Livingston and Albany — will spray for the pests using trucks and chemical spraying rigs Tessmer donated.
Denham Springs already has begun its abatement program. The others will begin either by November or next season, and aim to follow the same routines and guidelines as the parishwide program, the mayors said.
“Jeanine has given us all her information on their spraying schedules, routes, chemicals, purveyor and even the sales rep who calibrates the equipment,” Walker Mayor Rick Ramsey said. “The only thing holding us up is making sure we have an employee certified to do it.”
None of the municipalities besides Denham Springs have budgeted for an abatement program this year. Denham Springs added $3,500 for chemicals and planned to absorb the other costs within its existing budget.
Ramsey said he anticipates Walker’s expenses for chemicals, truck maintenance, fuel and labor will run about $40,000 to $60,000 per year.
“We may consider a surcharge on utilities of a dollar or so, but we haven’t made that decision yet,” Ramsey said.
Any surcharge likely would be assessed against the city’s 2,500 sewer customers who are within city limits, rather than its 4,500 water hookups, which extend to areas outside the city where no mosquito spraying will occur, he said.
Mayor Derral Jones said he is not yet sure how much Livingston’s abatement efforts will cost. The town will begin spraying within the next few weeks and will spray for the remainder of the season, with no charge to residents. Then officials will evaluate the costs for the next year, he said.
Albany officials also have not yet determined the impact to their bottom line, Mayor Gene Glascock said.
“That’s one reason we didn’t go ahead and buy stuff,” he said. “We’ll probably start looking at it around the first of the year and then start spraying around April or May.”
Despite the uncertainty, Glascock said he is confident the village’s residents will appreciate the effort.
“Albany has been one of the hot spots in the parish for West Nile, so it’s definitely beneficial for Albany to keep it going,” Glascock said. “When the parish quit spraying, most said they wished they wouldn’t have done away with it.”
Parish President Layton Ricks said the parish almost certainly will have to step back in and provide mosquito control services in the future.
“We’re going to have to tackle this issue at some point,” Ricks said. “The municipalities have limited budgets too. They can’t do this forever.”
The parish’s role likely would not be creating another abatement district, like the one soon to be dissolved, he said. Rather, the parish would work with a private company to establish a spraying program.
Until then, or until other municipalities start their own programs, only 1 in 7 parish residents will have the benefit of mosquito control, based on population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
And the mosquito population will soar back to its pre-abatement heights, Tessmer said.
“We went from 800 to 1,000 mosquitoes per night in a trap to, in the past few years, down to the point where we had maybe 125 a night,” Tessmer said. “It’ll rocket back up there overnight, and next year, it will be just like it was in 2005. It’s like I wasted the last 10 years of my life — and a whole lot of money.”
Any money that remains from shuttering the parishwide program will be transferred to the parish’s general fund upon the dissolution of the mosquito abatement district, Ricks said.
The money will be earmarked for mosquito control-related expenses, the only legal use of the voter-dedicated funding.
Tessmer said those expenses might include wages for the remaining abatement employee who would continue the closeout process as an administration employee and consultant fees for Tessmer as she helps the parish defend a lawsuit filed over the district’s use of chemical spraying.
If the parish ever decides to reboot its abatement program, the funds also could be used to cover election expenses, she said.
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen, and call her at (225) 336-6981.