letter to the editor

Mosquito Control: Forget “Taj Mahal” and Do Something about ZIKA!


Dear Editor,

Steve Smith is a 20 year incumbent on the Florida Keys Mosquito Control Board. He is once again running for another 4 year ride.

Mr. Smith tells us that he has been your good and faithful servant for lo these many, many, years and that he has tried his damndest to wisely spend your tax dollars. But he complains that all too often a majority of the board has overridden him and forced the board to cut taxes, cut expenses, and otherwise minimize your tax dollars spent by the board. Shame…shame on that nasty majority for saving your money. How dare they! The reduction in spending must not have degraded their ability to kill skeeters, because if it had….Mr. Smith sure would have complained about it. He doesn’t even mention it.

Mr. Smith tells us that the soon to be built Big Coppit Skeeter Taj Mahal will be money well and wisely spent. I disagree, and I think you will too.

Initially it was to cost about $2 mi. The initial plan was good governance. The facility was to be but a single work building…think of a garage and maintenance facilities. It was to have a few work carrels in a squad room, a couple of small offices and a briefing room. Why only that? Because nearly every person who would be assigned to that facility would be a field worker. That, Dear Friends, was a good idea and a proper use of your bucks.

While you’re thinking about that, please recall that it was only a few years ago that we built a really expensive…really big, state of the art facility in Marathon. It cost us about $9 million, that’s $9 million of your hard earned tax dollars. Back then Mr. Smith told us that it was vital that we build it so that we could “centralize” the FKMCB ops. His pitch was that centralization would improve efficiency. He was right. The Marathon facility has dandy exec offices, and admin offices, many of which are now empty. The Marathon facility has work spaces, and yes…it even has several labs and room to expand. That’s important because Mr. Smith claims that there is a need for yet another lab at Big Coppit. He’s wrong.

Mr. Smith…who tells us that he’s being careful with your money, is pushing to build, not one…but two buildings on Big Coppit. Two buildings. One a simple working facility like the one described above, and another with spiffy office spaces for mid level admin employees. Replete with a big conference room, a nifty break room, an elevator, a reception area, but not enough parking spaces for staff. This second building will be the Skeeter Taj Mahal. It will be spiffy…nice and expensive… It will cost about $4.5 million. Make that about $6.5 million when you add in the cost of the land. Think about it…all those dollars won’t kill a single bug. The second proposed building will hold only a few midlevel employees who should be housed in Marathon facility where the boss, administration, and the base of operations reside. One must wonder what has happened to Mr. Smith’s notion of economy and efficiency.

Hopefully you’re now wondering why! Why is this is happening? It is to scratch the itch of a few long time staffers who live in Key West. These unhappy employees simply don’t want to drive to Marathon to work. They threatened to quit if they have to drive to Marathon to work. Smith, Commissioner Shaw, and Commissioner Jill Cranney Gage (who also wants another term), all voted to scratch the itch of those few employees. The vote was 3 to build the unnecessary Skeeter Taj Mahal….2 other commissioners voted against it.

And so candidates Smith and Cranney-Gage are eager to spend more than twice the original estimate to make a few staffers happy. This foolish spending will increase your FKMCB taxes by a whopping, jaw dropping…45%.

But wait there’s more: Years ago Steve Smith voted to give himself and the then other seated board members a huge, incredibly expensive benefit. It was essentially free health insurance for life. Ultimately the state imposed rules and regs controlling those benefits. An actuarial study was required. That study shone the light on the insane costs of the benefit. Just a couple of years ago, the then sitting board, including Steve Smith, voted to do away with that benefit. But, Steve Smith voted to grandfather in his own free healthcare benefit. Smith, one other currently sitting commissioner, and about 5 ex board members were grandfathered in. This set of privileged persons will receive essentially free health insurance for life. New hires, and new board members will not.

Mr. Smith takes good care of Mr. Smith. The cost to you? About $14,000,000.00 in long term liability.

Just for now, let’s forget about Mr. Smith’s bowing to the real estate people and dithering on the use of GMO in combating ZIKA.

Like hell I will; how could anyone forget that. Every single day there are more and more ZIKA cases reported. In Miami just a couple of days ago, CBS/4 reported that the CDC was telling us that the aerial spraying of the ZIKA infected area was at best…”hit or miss.” The residents are up in arms because the pesticide in use is reported to be killing gazillions of other beneficial bugs, and it is reported to be a carcinogen. The economy of the infected area is in shambles. Now there is a locally acquired case of ZIKA in Miami Beach.

And still, Smith and the FKMCB dither about the use of GMM to combat ZIKA.

Monroe county does not deserve to have yet another 4 years of Steve Smith. We deserve better than Smith and Cranney-Gage.

Walter Lagraves, Big Pine Key

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.