Livingston residents question recent mosquito abatement bills

LIVINGSTON PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Some people in Livingston Parish have questioned why they were mailed a bill for mosquito control, when the parish voted down a tax to continue the program. The director of the abatement program, Jeanine Tessmer, says it's not a new assessment people are getting, but 20,000 people never pail their last bill.

"It's difficult to say if we will be in operation beyond the first of next year," said Tessmer.

When 2015 arrives, the abatement trucks will be sold and the program will cease in Livingston Parish. In 2013, voters said no to a property tax to support mosquito control. Without a funding mechanism, the department can't operate. Which has people questioning why they've been mailed another bill.

"We're collecting the 2013 assessment. That will give us the funds to operate through 2014."

Tessmer says in October 2013, they sent out the very last $30 mosquito bill to be collected. But if you got another bill in the past week, she says it's because you didn't pay that bill or you have an outstanding balance in the system that's been collecting interest.

In October, she says they mailed out more 46,000 bills. Nearly 3,000 of those came back, return to sender. That means around 43,000 bills were actually delivered. So far, just more than 18,000 payments have been received. Leaving more than 24,000 bills still uncollected.

In some cases, Tessmer says, people have never paid their bills. They've filed lawsuits against some who owe upwards of $300. She says in the end, it's not cost effective to file suit because it can cost nearly $200 in court costs and attorney fees, to collect one $30 dollar payment.

Of the lawsuits they have won, they've put liens on people's homes. However, they've found people only pay if they: plan to sell their home, refinance or use the property to bond someone out of jail.

Tessmer says she's already been told, via telephone, that some people are not going to pay up.

"They say this is your last year, my $30 doesn't make a difference. I ain't paying."

Prior to the mosquito abatement program, the parish logged 22 cases of West Nile. Since the program came online 10 years ago, there have been two reported cases.

If those thousands of bills are left unpaid, not only will the trucks not be out spraying, she says they will not be able to collect and test mosquitos for diseases, like West Nile.


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