Mosquito Abatement Billboard

Billboards in the area along Livingston Parish Mosquito Abatement District 2&3 have drawn criticism from opponents of the funding proposition on the May 4 ballot.

More than six months remain before the long slate of state and parish elections, but an item on the May 4 ballot has already generated plenty of heat.        

It’s not about a certain candidate in this case. Instead, it’s about mosquitoes.

The $3 per month fee proposed for Livingston Parish Mosquito Abatement District 2&3 has become a sharply divided issue among residents along the unincorporated outskirts of Denham Springs and in the Watson area.

The move has been spearheaded by two Livingston Parish councilmen – Garry “Frog” Talbert, of District 2 and Maurice “Scooter” Keen, of District 3.  Talbert and Keen both said they pushed the measure after residents in their area said they wanted a revamp of the parish-wide program that ended in 2015.

Funding proposals for that district failed in 2013 and 2014, which led to its demise one year later. The program started in 2003 after the West Nile virus outbreak one year earlier.

The Livingston Parish Council approved a measure to form a district with all nine members in the fall 2017, but District 9 Councilman Shane Mack, of Albany, and District 4 Council member John Wascom, of Denham Springs, successfully pushed to dissolve the coalition.

Talbert and Keen chose to form their own district and received two-ninths of the approximately $120,000 in remaining revenue from the dissolved district.

The newly formed district put the measure on the ballot earlier this year, which has led to a war of words between residents who want the proposal and those who do not.

The pro-abatement crowd believes the area needs it, particularly to combat the insects during the heat and humidity that last through six or more months each year.

Opponents view the fee as another tax; others consider It harmful to vegetation and the environment.

It has become a hot topic on local social media, where the war of words continues and will likely intensify for the next five weeks leading to the election.

Other residents have questioned the use of billboards that serve as a reminder for voters to participate in the election on May 4, a particularly busy weekend highlighted by Spring Fest and other events.

Some residents have taken exception to the use of the abatement funds to pay for the billboards and placards, although Parish Council Attorney Chris Moody has said they’re permissible since they do not ask residents to vote one way or another.

Signage both pro and con have proliferated in the area, and residents in the district can expect more of the same leading up to the vote.

They should also expect the often-rancorous comments to escalate leading up to the vote. It figures well that it’s impossible to win an argument over politics or religion.

Perhaps we can take solace that the issue will likely draw more than the typically abysmal turnout for a one-item ballot.

At the same time, it’s doubtful the bad blood will end once we know the outcome. Hard feelings die as quickly as a swarm of mosquitoes on a muggy summer night.

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