It took a while but shovels could be in the ground any day now at 18 Aquamarine Drive on Big Coppitt Key.
It’s the site of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District’s new Lower Keys operations building and Commissioner Phil Goodman said construction could start soon. The district was waiting for a building permit from Monroe County to start work on a $2.84 million garage/chemical room. It was granted in late April and the site is finally ready, said Beth Ranson, the district's public information officer.
Another permit is still needed for a set of trailers that will house administrative offices and a small mosquito identification lab, Ranson said.
The district’s lease of a Key West city-owned building on Stock Island ends Dec. 31 and will not be renewed, which is the reason for the new buildings. In December, Biltmore Construction Co. set a move-in date of Dec. 29 this year for the Big Coppitt site for employees who will work out of the trailers and field inspectors using the chemical and storage garage.
“The city of Key West has given us until the end of March  to vacate our current location at 5224 College Road,” said district Executive Director Andrea Leal, adding the chemical room/garage should be finished by that time.
A groundbreaking ceremony at the site is set for May 23 at 10 a.m. on Big Coppitt Key.
A trial release of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes infected with natural bacteria Wolbachia continues on Stock Island. The 12-week trial started April 18 and 40,000 male Aedes aegypti are being released twice a week in a 10-acre area.
The trial is being carried out to drive down the local population of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which carry Zika and other viruses. Male mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia mate with female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, rendering the females sterile.
The mosquitoes are reared by Kentucky-based biotech company MosquitoMate. Founder Stephen Dobson said for the Wolbachia method to work, there needs to be a ratio of seven male Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes to every one naturally found in the trial site.
“We have mosquito traps out in the area, so since we’re releasing lots of males, we expect to catch those back,” to figure out if the ratio is seven to one, he said Tuesday. “The bottom line is it takes weeks before you could potentially see an effect.”
Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219