DENHAM SPRINGS – More than two months remain before voters decide on a fee to fund mosquito abatement in two districts, but work is already underway to draw support from residents.
Livingston Parish Councilman Garry “Frog” Talbert of District 2 and Maurice “Scooter” Keen launched a site on social media to promote the plan for their two districts, which encompass Watson and the unincorporated areas north of Denham Springs.
The Facebook page “Livingston Parish Mosquito Abatement District 1 & 2” includes posts on frequently asked questions about insecticides, information on mosquito-borne disease, and links to Q&A sites about the spray process and millage.
The comments range from favorable remarks to staunch opposition.
Talbert said the site has generated more than 100 likes and a mix of comments, pro and con.
“The fact that more people like than comment negative, I feel pretty good,” Talbert said. “We’re still trying to answer questions, which is why we put a link for the American Mosquito Operators.”
Some residents have inquired about which chemicals the abatement would use, but Keen said the operations manager for district would make that decision.
Entomologists from Center for Disease Control have urged Livingston Parish to bring about mosquito abatement, largely because it is the only parish along the Interstate 10/12 corridor without the abatement service, Keen said.
The lack of abatement within an area of growing population puts the parish behind in contention for federal grant money, but only after the election.
The proposal went on the ballot in May upon the advice of Mark Harrell, director of the Livingston Parish Office of Homeland Security, who told the parish the qualification deadline would end before the October primary election.
The short time frame makes the process tougher to promote the proposal before the election.
“That doesn’t even guarantee us for a grant,” Keen said. “We didn’t want an election in May so that we could talk to people about mosquito abatement and our re-election bids at the same time, and we would get a much better turnout.”
Keen believes the feedback from residents suggests the issue will pass in May.
“Based on what we’re hearing, there’s no way this can fail if they go vote,” he said.
The efforts to rebuild trust in government will prove the biggest challenge for passage of the district proposal, according to Keen. The board will be comprised of five members from the district, and the funds collected will only go to mosquito abatement.
Opponents of the legislation believe the funds would land in the general fund, a similar argument that tax opponents have used on issues ranging from drainage and fire protection.
“This is intended to be a public health and safety issue,” Keen said.
The district would charge residents $3.00 per month, which would be collected on the bill for Water District 1. The ballot item will read:
Shall the Mosquito Abatement District Two and Three of the Parish of Livingston, State of Louisiana (the “District”), be authorized to levy and collect a service charge in an amount not to exceed $3.00 per month (an estimated $325,000.00 is reasonably expected at this time to be collected from the levy of the Service Charge for an entire year) for a period of ten (10) years, beginning in the year 2019 and ending in the year 2028, for each residential or commercial structure, such charge to be collected as part of the monthly charges for metered water, for the purpose of paying the costs of mosquito abatement and control programs within the District?