Mayor calls for better oversight of mosquito abatement district, other quasi-independent agencies

East Baton Rouge Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control is located at 10550 Veterans Memorial Blvd.

Mayor Sharon Weston Broome is calling for tougher oversight of the city’s Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control district, as scrutiny of the agency and its questionable expenditures grows.

On Wednesday, two Metro Council members called for a hearing to fire MARC’s director, Todd Walker, because of concerns over escalating costs related to the agency’s new $11.1 million facility on airport property as well as his close ties with a consultant who has made more than $1.2 million managing the project.

In its latest cover story, Business Report explores the reasons for the cost increases and the relationship of the consultant, Gary Beard, to the project.

“These findings send a signal that there needs to be tighter oversight of the agency by not only the MARC Board of Commissioners but the Metropolitan Council itself,” Broome says in a statement. “My administration will work with council members to investigate the situation at MARC and make any necessary changes in order to protect taxpayer dollars and ensure quality delivery of services to the citizens of EBR.”

MARC is funded by two dedicated millages that together generate some $9 million a year for the agency. Still, MARC needs approval to spend its money from the Metro Council—which has until recently routinely granted funding requests, Business Report’s investigation found.

In her statement, Broome points out that the Metro Council is the governing authority of MARC but acknowledges “it is the city parish’s responsibility to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and ensure fiscally sound management practices are being utilized by all agencies.”

At Wednesday’s council meeting, MARC had planned to seek permission to spend still more money on its facility—more than $550,000 for design, program management and construction of a new fence. Council members Matt Watson and Dwight Hudson, who are behind the move to oust Walker, were prepared to grill the embattled director on why the cost for the fence has grown by $220,000 since just last fall.

In November, the council approved a $330,000 supplemental appropriation for the fence project, which, at the time, was criticized for being excessive.

“How did the cost nearly double?” Watson says he was prepared to ask.

He didn’t get an opportunity, however. Shortly before the meeting, Walker notified the Metro Council administrator he wanted to remove the item from the agenda.

 

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