BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - East Baton Rouge Parish Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control is asking the Metro Council for close to $4 million for a new facility.
They currently have $6.5 million set aside for the project, but the estimated price increased when they looked to include additional features.
The money would come from a fund that is already set aside for mosquito abatement, meaning if approved by the Metro Council, the additional funds for construction will not require any new taxes to be levied.
The new facility is slated for a plot of land that is part of the Baton Rouge Airport.
"We'll have access to the runways. We'll have our own hanger," said Dr. Todd Walker, the director of the EBR Parish Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control. The organization often runs aerial missions, using a special plane outfitted with a system that sprays a chemical to kill mosquitoes.
The current facility is located about 1.5 miles from their airport hangar. They have to transport supplies, airplane parts, and mosquito spray back and forth.
"That takes time away from actually servicing the planes, cases wear and tear on the vehicles, causes extra fuel costs," said Walker, who also mentioned there could be a problem if one of the trucks carrying the spray ever leaked.
However, leaders said building the new facility is about more than just moving the operation closer.
"Right now we're crowded in this facility," Walker said.
The offices for some staffers are currently in the middle of the hallway. The roof is old and leaks. There are not enough parking spots in the lot for their many spray trucks. The new facility would fix these problems.
They also currently do not have a facility that can keep the spray chemicals at a regulated temperature. Such a facility is included in the new plans and would allow them to maximize the usable life-span of the chemical.
Additionally, Walker said having their own hangar and facility would allow them to get planes in the air earlier each year and thus get a head start on fighting West Nile.
"A lot of times in the spring, because of the rains, we have problems with mosquitoes, but we have to wait because planes are not ready to fly," Walker said.
Their current hangar is leased from the state of Louisiana. When plane inspection time comes around in the spring, mosquito planes get pushed to the bottom of the inspection waiting list behind the state aircrafts. With their own hangar, they could inspect and repair the aircrafts on an as-needed basis.
"We will have control of our program," Walker said. "We will be able to fly earlier in the spring."
Walker said they will be accepting construction contractor bids soon, and that, if all goes to plan, they could be finished with the project by early 2017.
The Metro Council is set to vote on the funding request at their regular meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 23.