Metro Council agenda includes $4.5M helicopter, tax renewals, noise ordinance

Baton Rouge City Hall (File photo)

The mosquito control agency for East Baton Rouge Parish wants to spend more than $4.5 million of its fund balance for a helicopter the director says will help it fight the annoying and sometimes deadly pests. 

At least one council member questions the expense while suggesting the Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control department might not need all the money its dedicated tax raises. 

The agency currently owns two older twin-engine planes, though usually only one is in working order at a time, says Director Michael Becker. The planes fly no lower than 300 feet, which doesn’t work as well with modern pesticides that are lighter and more environmentally friendly. 

Helicopters can fly lower and slower, and their rotors can push the pesticides down through the tree canopy, making them more effective against adult and larval mosquitoes, Becker says. 

Council member Dwight Hudson says he wants to know if EBR could partner with another agency or contract out the service, though Becker says using an outside company would be more expensive in the long run. Hudson also points to the agency’s healthy fund balance—which Becker says is about $17.5 million—to suggest it doesn’t need to collect as much as it does in property taxes. 

“No other department [in city-parish government] is sitting on nearly two-and-a-half years’ worth of fund balance,” says Hudson, who has previously argued that a portion of the agency’s tax revenue should be redirected to drainage. 

Today’s agenda also includes a proposal to call a November election to renew MARC’s 1.23 mill property tax. The Brownsfield Fire Protection District also is seeking to renew a 10 mill tax. 

Becker says MARC is following the finance department’s recommendation to keep the mill the same, noting it can always be rolled back; the agency currently is collecting less than the law allows, he says. 

The council also will take up council member Denise Amorosa’s proposal that would allow the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to penalize license holders for noise violations. The council deferred the proposal in March, in part because some members were concerned that certain businesses would be unfairly targeted.