The council, meeting in regular session, approved up to $50,000 in additional costs at the request of the administration.
Chief Administrative Officer Henry “Bo” LaGrange reminded council members that they had capped the amount to be spent for spraying at $250,000 when they approved the contract in December with Mosquito Control Contractors Inc. of New Iberia. However, $15,000 was later taken from that allocation to pay a third party to oversee the mosquito program that also includes surveillance and larvicide components at fixed costs. The surveillance component is intended to detect viruses carried by mosquitoes such as West Nile.
MCCI also provides spraying services prior to planned outdoor events and in areas where residents request special attention.
LaGrange said that through August this year spraying costs total $113,000.
The amount of spraying needed is based on the impact of weather conditions on mosquito populations, he said.
For instance, he said, in March this year spraying costs were $15,000 while in the same month last year they were just $37. And while spraying costs in 2010 were $163,000, in 2009 they were $324,000. The price tag on the entire program last year was $248,000, he added.
“We put a cap on it for a reason because in previous years (costs) kept escalating and escalating,” said Councilman David Hanagriff of Centerville.
“This is the time of the year that (mosquitoes) propagate,” said at-large Councilman Steve Bierhorst of Patterson. “They’re actively laying eggs now for next spring and everybody’s got mosquitoes right now, they’re everywhere.
Councilman Glen Hidalgo of Bayou Vista said he also felt the bid was low and added, “I saw this coming, and I agree that it’s just too much.”
“Keep in mind if you cut this budget and in the next couple of months when people want some spraying, you’re going to have to tell them that ‘we’re not spraying anymore, we’re out of money.’ That’s on your shoulders if that’s what you wish to do,” Bierhorst said. “We’re not going to have the opportunity to tell (MCCI) to go out there and spray this ball park because kids have a game out there.”
At-large Councilman Albert Foulcard of Franklin said he does not attend nighttime football games for the simple reason that he is afraid one mosquito bite could end his life. He said he felt that spending an additional $25,000 to $50,000 to prevent the loss of life is a small price to pay.
Foulcard’s motion to approve the $50,000 addition was seconded by At-large Councilman Gary Duhon of Morgan City.
After discussion Hanagriff moved to amend the motion to lower the allocation to $25,000. A second was made by Kevin Voisin of Morgan City.
“Mr. LaGrange usually makes pretty good judgment calls, and I don’t think he’d be asking for $50,000 if he thought he needed $25,000,” Duhon said. “Mosquitoes are a problem here … and I think we should allocate the $50,000.”
Councilman Ken Singleton of Patterson said past weather patterns show that October and November are typically wet months conducive to higher mosquito populations.
He added that he was the victim of a mosquito bite that gave him a virus, which put him in bed for six weeks.
“I support the administration’s (decisions),” he said.
Hanagriff added that he is not questioning the administration’s judgment, but the contract.
His amendment motion failed to be considered on a 6-4 vote with himself, Hidalgo, Voisin and Councilman Craig Mathews of Four Corners on the losing side. Councilman Chuck Walters of Amelia was absent.
The same four councilmen voted against the $50,000 addition which was approved also on a 6-4 vote. Voting for were Singleton, Councilman Logan Fromenthal of Berwick, Foulcard, Duhon, Councilman Butch Middleton of Franklin and Bierhorst.