By MARINA WATERS
The bats are back at Lamar Elementary School and this time it’s been declared an emergency.
Last August, bats were discovered in the school, which prompted the district to close its gym to students until the area through which the bats were entering could be fixed. Now, the bats are back and the school system is looking to fix the problem once again.
During the Thursday, July 2, Washington County Board of Education meeting, Director of Schools Bill Flanary asked the board of education to declare a state of emergency regarding the bat infestation so the school system wouldn’t have to wait through a bid process to hire a professional bat removal service. The board unanimously approved the recommendation.
“The auditor recommended that I come to you, the school board, requesting that you declare an emergency,” Flanary said to the board. “This will allow me to sign a contract with a professional removal service without going through a 60-day or even a 90-day bid process.”
Flanary said should the professional bat removal service see that they’ve had pups, the bats can’t be removed for two more weeks and the Lamar gym will once again close once schools reopen on Aug. 3.
“Our plan is to contract with a professional bat removal service,” Flanary said. “Note I used the word ‘removal’ as opposed to ‘exterminator’ because it is illegal to kill a bat. They are a protected species.”
“If they find evidence that the bats have had offspring, then you can’t touch them until the second week of August. Then when they know how they’re getting in and out, they can take steps to exclude them. But you can’t kill them and you can’t do anything about them until those little bats leave the building.”
The next step is to choose a bat removal service. Flanary said the selected service will spend the night in the Lamar gym to monitor bat activity. He also said the school system has already received quotes and looks to choose a group to address the situation soon.
“We have quotes in hand ranging from less than $5,000 to more than $30,000 for removal services. Because of this, we are carefully checking references before we agree to anything with anybody.”
Last year, the school board had a roofing company repair an obvious spot the bats were coming through, he said. Now that the bats have returned, the school system is looking for professionals who can guarantee the bats won’t come through the area they will fix.
“(A bat removal service) will guarantee that the bats will not come back in the places that they repair,” Flanary said.
The next school board meeting is set for Tuesday, Aug. 4, at 5:30 p.m.