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New mosquito control buildings won’t be finished in time

Florida Keys Mosquito Control District workers have to be out of their building on Stock Island by the end of December, but commissioners are concerned there might not be anywhere else for them to go by then.

The district’s lease of a Key West city-owned building on College Road on Stock Island ends Dec. 31 and will not be renewed, which is the reason a new chemical/storage garage is about to go up along with trailers for the workers on Big Coppitt Key. However, construction hasn’t started yet because a building permit has not been granted by the county.

Construction manager Bill Sprague of B.W. Sprague Consulting Services Inc. told commissioners Tuesday the permit is expected in the next two weeks for the $2.84 million garage/chemical room along with three trailers at $155,000.

“We can’t start digging anything until we have that permit,” he said. “The goal is to have that office moved and everything moved up there but we won’t have a certificate of occupancy until February” 2018.

There was talk at Tuesday’s meeting of renting a space for the workers between the end of the lease and move-in date to the new buildings. There are 36 field inspectors and four accounting department employees working in the Lower Keys.

“It doesn’t make any sense to spend taxpayer dollars on renting a place,” said Commissioner Jill Craney-Gage. “We need to talk to the city because it doesn’t make sense to move operations for one or two months.”

Director Andrea Leal and attorney Dirk Smits said once there is more set schedule, they will look into options.

Oxitec

A trial release of Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes in the Lower Keys is on track for April on Stock Island.

Meanwhile, officials with British biotech company Oxitec are still awaiting approval of a trial release of their genetically modified mosquitoes in the Keys.

In November, commissioners approved a contract for Oxitec to release genetically modified mosquitoes in the spring somewhere in the Keys, but U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval and a trial site are needed first.

An FDA-approved trial would have happened in Key Haven, but an Election Day referendum revealed voters in that subdivision did not approve of the trial happening there. Now, a new site selection and application are necessary.

“This has required us to provide extra information to the FDA and we are currently evaluating that information with them. It is then up to the FDA how it wants to proceed with an approval process,” said Derric Nimmo, product development manager at Oxitec.

Oxitec says the offspring of its GM mosquitoes die almost immediately, resulting in a smaller population of Aedes aegypti, which carry Zika and other viruses.

Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219

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