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April 2011 Column - Resolving the Rat Problem


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oneilj - Posted on 13 April 2011

About a month ago, Erie County Legislature Minority Leader John Mills and I met with County Executive Chris Collins to discuss our concerns regarding cutbacks in the county’s rodent control program.  The meeting was prompted by calls to my office from concerned citizens and public officials, including several from Village of Kenmore Mayor Patrick Mang and Trustee Salvatore Muscarella.  During the meeting with the county executive, I expressed my belief that rodent control should be addressed on a regional basis, as rats do not respect property lines, let alone municipal boundaries.  The county executive seemed to understand, but was reluctant to restore positions to the county budget.  One of his major goals since taking office three years ago has been to trim the county workforce and relieve taxpayers of the burden of the unusually high “legacy costs” associated with public sector employees.  He indicated, however, that he was open to other alternatives to addressing the rat problem.

 

After several more discussions, the county executive agreed to release $70,000 of 2010 surplus funds to assist towns and villages with rodent control.  This money would cover the cost of supplies and technical assistance to municipalities.  Since the county’s cost of supplies for the towns and villages was less than $7,500 in 2010, there would be ample funds available to help them combat rats.  I was pleased with this arrangement when the county executive informed me of his decision a few hours before our latest meeting.  I did not realize, however, that the battle had just begun.

 

I moved to adopt the resolution to utilize the $70,000 in surplus funds to pay for rodent control at the March 24 meeting.  Several members objected to its immediate consideration given that it had not been introduced the customary 48 hours prior to the meeting.  Instead of passing on the 24th, therefore, the rats were given a stay of execution and the resolution was sent to committee.  Incredibly, the Health and Human Services Committee failed to act on it at their meeting on March 29.  As a result, I plan to move to discharge the resolution from the committee at our next legislature meeting on April 14.  If successful, this move will allow the measure to be voted on by the full legislature.

 

To the casual observer, I am sure this process seems much more difficult than it needs to be and I would tend to agree.  I am confident, though, that the other legislators will realize the logic of the county executive’s $70,000 offer.  I am sure they will see the value of working cooperatively with the county executive to resolve our community’s pressing problems and will join me in voting for the resolution.  Otherwise, we all will lose, except for the rats.

(Printed April 13, 2011 in the Ken-Ton Bee Newspaper)