Bug board codifies Oxitec contract

Florida Keys Mosquito Control District commissioners held their most non-controversial meeting of the year Friday, according to Commissioner Tom McDonald.

There were no protestors outside the 107th Street Mosquito Control building in Marathon calling for the board to strike down a contract between the district and biotech company Oxitec, approved on Nov. 19. The contract solidifies a long-anticipated agreement for Oxitex to release genetically modified mosquitoes as a method of reducing the population Aedes aegypti, which carry Zika and other viruses.

But there was no Oxitec discussion Friday because commissioners haven’t narrowed down a site for the trial.

There is also limited information on the trial release date and site of biotech company MosquitoMate Inc.’s wolbachia-infected mosquitoes. MosquitoMate, working through the University of Kentucky, received approval in October from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to try to reduce the population of Aedes aegypti using mosquitoes infected with the natural bacteria Wolbachia.

Commissioners did discuss their building project on Big Coppitt Key and unanimously approved a guaranteed maximum price for a garage and chemical room at $2.7 million.

“In January, we will sign a formal contract with the builder and they’ll get started on it right away, so we think things will progress within our time frames,” Commissioner Phil Goodman said.

Three modular trailers will also go up in the new year at a cost of $155,000.

The need for new buildings arose following the city of Key West’s decision not to renew the district’s lease of a city-owned building on Stock Island. The lease ends Dec. 31, 2017.

Currently, 36 employees work in the Key West offices. Most are field inspectors and four are accounting department employees.

“We have a lot of spray trucks and equipment, and that’s the reason for the whole setup. We have physical assets that have to be maintained and taken care of,” said McDonald.

It was the last meeting for longtime Commissioner Bill Shaw, who didn’t run for re-election and will be replaced by Stan Zuba; and 20-year Commissioner Stephen Smith, who will be replaced by Brandon Pinder, who defeated him in the Nov. 8 election, at the Jan. 17 meeting.

Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219