Guest Commentary: Mosquito Control / Big Coppitt

Steve Smith

by Stephen Murray-Smith…….

When I was elected to mosquito control nineteen years ago, our program consisted of aerial spraying with a 1940’s aircraft, a few spray trucks, no entomologist or biologists, and a $500,000 budget shortfall. Fast forward to today – our county has one of the best mosquito control programs in the nation.

Late 2007, FKMCD began talks with the City of Key West to purchase property in order to build a new structure then vacating the existing building. Appraisals secured at our expense and a tentative offer were submitted to the City Manager. We received a letter in September, 2008, stating they would not recommend the city sell us property or renew our lease which expired in 2012. We negotiated extensions through January 2018. If we remain in the building beyond March, 2018, we will pay retroactive rents of $530,000.

I have reminded our board for 8 years that the day to vacate our home since the late 1970’s was rapidly approaching. Rather than accruing reserves for constructing a new office, 5 out of the last 7 years the board majority cut our budget by voting rollback or below and balancing the shortfalls with our reserves contrary to the advise of director Doyle and our comptroller. We did purchase property a couple years ago, however the majority chose not to set aside funds to build offices. These delays have increased costs considerably and further delays will just cost more.

This year we are forced to propose a tax rate for 2016-2017 of .6831 up from .5019 allowing the replenishment of reserves and accrual of the funds to build our new offices. If adopted, this would increase the tax by $18.31 per $100,000 assessed value, although the rate will be reduced before our final budget is in place this September. I understand that one of the commissioners who voted in favor of the building is bowing to pressure from a few people, and may choose to change her vote at the upcoming meeting.

I do not want to increase taxes. My taxes will also increase, but mosquito control needs a facility in the lower Keys as we have as many as 38 employees working out of the Key West office. Included in the project is an important lab to test alternatives to genetic modified mosquitos, an area for vehicle maintenance and storage, and EPA rated chemical storage. It is not a palatial building, it is a well thought out highly functional space that should serve the taxpayers for the next 50 years.

The majority may vote on September 7, to delay construction and look for an alternative such as trailers or rental space. Previous delays of this necessary project have increased the construction costs; further delaying will result in even higher costs. New technology on the horizon will help reduce the mosquito population, but we will never eliminate these pesky bugs. They will be here when we are gone, so will the need for a state of the art mosquito program and as will our new facility.


Steve Smith is a candidate for Florida Keys Mosquito Control Board, District 3.

The Blue Paper invites all public officials, including candidates for office, to submit letters to the editor or guest editorials on the various issues that face our community.

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