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Rat problems may spur joint effort on totes

A number of area municipalities are struggling to control varying degrees of rodent infestation, and requiring people to use garbage totes is being considered as a remedy by many of them.

Now a group of communities is considering a joint bid to purchase totes to save money.

The Northwest Solid Waste Management Board is scheduled to meet at 3:30 p.m. March 2 in the Town of Tonawanda's highway department to discuss the feasibility of such a plan.

Buffalo's success with the totes has made them appealing to other communities trying to handle rat problems which have worsened in first-ring suburbs such as the Town of Tonawanda and Amherst.

Leonard J. Fiegl, Amherst refuse control officer who is the chairman of the solid waste board, said the meeting will be used to gauge interest. "We are going to get all the elected officials together and take an in-depth look at it," he said. "We all realize we have serious problems with the rats."

The board, a consortium, focuses on improving solid waste management in its member communities -- the City of Tonawanda, the towns of Amherst, Tonawanda and Grand Island and the villages of Kenmore and Williamsville. In the past, the board has negotiated various contracts, such as trash disposal, to increase savings to the communities.

"If we go in jointly, we could save money on distribution and assembly," he said.

Fiegl said Amherst is already looking into the issue and that if the town decides to buy the totes, it would use a bond.

"We don't have that kind of money sitting around," he said.

The cost of the totes is not clear. In the Town of Tonawanda, estimates have gone as high as $2.3 million. But officials believe that the per-tote cost would be lower if they order a greater number of the receptacles.

The Tonawanda Town Board has amended its garbage law in favor of totes and expects to hold a public hearing soon on the changes. Kenmore revised its garbage ordinance in 2004 and implemented totes for commercial and apartment owners but is now considering a villagewide tote program. Other municipalities are contemplating or working to amend their sanitation regulations to mandate totes.

Fiegl said buying the totes is "just one piece of the puzzle."

"The residents also have to rodent-proof their property," he said. "The totes [are] just one piece of the equation, but it's definitely something we are considering."

e-mail: esapong@buffnews.com

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