mosquito

Wear long sleeves and pants and use an insect repellent to keep the mosquitoes away.

Advocate file photo

The Livingston Parish Council has decided to go forward with forming a mosquito abatement board. 

The council approved a new ordinance late Thursday creating a nine-member board, whose members will be those who serve on the parish council. They would study best practices and potentially put forward a new tax to pay for anti-mosquito spraying throughout the parish. 

Livingston-area Councilman Gary "Frog" Talbert introduced the ordinance last month, saying he was getting complaints from his constituents that mosquitoes have gotten "out of control" since residents voted down two tax proposals to keep a parish-wide program running.

The council voted 7-2 in favor on Thursday night. Shane Mack and John Wascom cast the dissenting votes.

It's not clear yet when the board will start meeting. Talbert said in September that the nine-member board would require special legislative approval to operate, due to its size. 

Council Chairman Tracy Girlinghouse, of Walker, said he voted to form the board, because he wants to hear from experts if new research in the field of mosquito abatement would make it worthwhile to bring a tax for anti-mosquito spraying back to back to voters.

But Girlinghouse said he is "hard leaning" against a new tax.

"I’m not convinced it does anything," he said. "But I do know people didn’t want it twice."

Denham Springs Councilman John Wascom voted against forming the board. He said he thought the council could do research without forming a separate board.

Maurice "Scooter Keen, of the Watson area, also voted in favor, citing concerns about Zika and West Nile virus. He said he wants to get the facts on whether and how to spray.

The council also heard from a Holden woman, Michelle Gibbs, at the public hearing portion Thursday night, who urged the council members to vote no.

Gibbs alleges that prior aerial mosquito spraying contained chemicals similar to Agent Orange. She was referring to a herbicide the military used extensively during the Vietnam War that caused health problems for many of the people exposed to it. 

Gibbs said the spray Livingston Parish used previously made her sick enough to have to retire as disabled from her job as a school bus driver and killed her 84 chickens. 

“I had every side effect to the chemical except death,” Gibbs told the council. 

She implored the council to talk with residents and study any chemicals before making a decision to spray again. Council members assured her the board would study those kinds of issues.

Gibbs has an open lawsuit filed in Livingston Parish against the mosquito abatement board and its former director, Jeanine Tessmer, along with others involved. 

The lawsuit alleges the mosquito board was negligent in its practices and caused her to get sick. 

Tessmer told the Advocate the mosquito district sprayed an insecticide called Naled over the area where the woman lives, which she said has no connection to Agent Orange and is the chemical of choice for aerial mosquito spraying.

Tessmer said the previous mosquito board "used good practices and that are customarily used by mosquito abatement districts" when it sprayed for mosquitoes.

Follow Caroline Grueskin on Twitter, @cgrueskin.