By Neale Gulley
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Six months after a rodent control program that had been cut by Erie County in early 2012 was reinstated this past March, officials say calls from residents concerned about vermin continue to flood in at a record pace.
In late March, shortly after the program was reinstated, the county reported more than 400 complaints about rats in a less than two week period. About 1,500 requests were handled between March 15 and June 30, representing a 62 percent increase over the annual average since 2002.
Almost six months later, and total rodent requests number 2,456, continuing the record-setting trend.
“The number of requests that have been received by the Rodent Control Program emphasizes the point my administration made when we reinstated the program in March,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said. “This is a necessary and effective service that residents want.”
Roughly $370,000 for the program was put back into the 2012 budget by the then newly elected Poloncarz, after the non-mandated program was cut from the budget last year as a cost savings measure under former executive Chris Collins — prompting a good deal of election year vitriol.
Funding for the Vector and Pest Control Program, which included rodent baiting and trapping on private property, was added back in December 2011, when the Legislature included $369,848 to the 2012 Adopted Budget to restore the Rodent Control Program, with 36 percent of that funding (approximately $133,000) being reimbursed by New York state.
The $133,000 being spent to fund the positions and
supplies is expected to be reimbursed by the state, according to a press release from Poloncarz’s office.
When Collins cut the program last year, the legislature allocated $70,000 for municipalities to train their own vector control agents. While the Town of Tonawanda expressed interest, area legislators, notably Lynn Marinelli, largely continued fighting the cut.
In the City of Tonawanda, $5,000 was approved to train Code Enforcement Officer Joe Ulanowski to lay poison. But Mayor Ron Pilozzi said the money was never disbursed and is not part of the current budget.
Enclosable totes have been used since 2007, when each resident was asked to pay $50 apiece for the new receptacles.
A map provided by the county shows all of this year’s calls for rats have come from the more densely populated northeast corner of the county, including Buffalo, the Town of Tonawanda and City of Tonawanda.
People with rodent control concerns can call the Erie County Department of Health at 961-6800.
Of the total rodent-related service requests the county has fielded 2,456; 1,217 are requests currently being addressed; 918 are requests that have been completed; and 321 are pending requests awaiting permission slips and/or ready for a field visit, according to county officials.Contact city editor Neale Gulley at 693-1000, ext. 4114