The Livingston Parish Council may take a second swat at killing mosquitoes.
Livingston-area Councilman Garry "Frog" Talbert on Thursday night introduced an ordinance to form a mosquito abatement board, with the intention of proposing a tax to pay for a program to spray nuisance and disease-carrying mosquitoes.
There has been no parish-wide mosquito abatement since 2015 when revenue for the program stopped after voters rejected proposed property taxes to pay for it. Prior to that time, the program was funded through a fee that proved difficult to collect.
Talbert told the council he is hearing from constituents, "'The mosquitoes are getting out of control and we've got to do something."
The proposed ordinance says the board would consist of all nine members of the parish council and would meet on the second Tuesday of each month. Talbert said the board would listen to experts about the best way to kill mosquitoes and formulate a budget for a parish-wide program.
Talbert said he favors designing the tax as a set fee to be assessed per tax bill and collected by the assessor's office, as opposed to a property tax. He argued it would be more fair — and more likely to pass.
"It doesn't matter if you live in a $25,000 house or a camp on a river," he said. "When a mosquito bites you, it bites you. And if it's packing a disease, you're going to be impacted by it."
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Both the nine-member board and the fee assessment would need special approval from the legislature, but only the tax would go on the ballot, he said.
The proposal was met with lively debate, though most members of the council appeared in favor of the proposition, which will get a public hearing during the next council meeting on Oct. 12 at 6 p.m.
Denham Springs-area councilman John Wascom said he would vote to establish the board, but expressed some skepticism about the effectiveness of mosquito spraying, especially for people who live back from the road. He also questioned whether it's a good idea to reintroduce a tax similar to one that voters already rejected in 2012 and 2013.
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"I just know that sometimes government can ask the people, and they voice their opinion. So, they didn't like the result, so they ask them again and they get the same answer. And then government keeps asking until sooner or later they get what they want," he said. "I really ask that we go slow and think about this before we commit 100 percent and force this on the people."
Livingston Parish had mosquito abatement from 2004 to 2015 that was paid for by a $30 fee billed to each person who received an electric bill. That funded a $1 million a year program with chemicals, equipment, drivers and staff biologist to set traps and check complaint areas.
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The program struggled to collect money because there was no penalty for failing to pay the fee. So, the mosquito district sought a property tax when the fee was up for renewal. When the property tax failed twice, the program shut down and sold its equipment to other parishes and to the municipalities in Livingston Parish. The equipment continues to be used in the cities, including Denham Springs, where city gas workers spray for mosquitoes at night.