Share this article

print logo

Hamburg wants totes, but doubts simmer in Lancaster

Lancaster’s rat debate migrated Monday to Town Hall, where several older residents complained that large garbage totes popular in many other communities are not a magic bullet to resolve the problem.

But the Village of Hamburg appeared ready to give them a try.

Each household in the Village of Hamburg would receive a garbage tote and a recycling tote. The total cost for both would be from $65 to $100, village officials told residents at a public hearing Monday night.

All but one resident were in favor of changing over to the totes.

“I’m strongly in favor of totes as long as there’s enforcement,” said Peter Lilga of East Main Street.

Another resident said he had limited room to store a tote, and thought it would be difficult to wheel it to the street.

There were sample totes in the boardroom, and several residents have been using them in a pilot program, village officials said. They will be given a survey in several weeks.

The charge would be placed on next year’s tax bill, after the village receives bids for the totes, and sees if it wins a state grant to help purchase them.

“I don’t know if you’ve been out there and seen them,” Mayor Thomas J. Moses Sr. said. “We’ve had as many as 13 to 14 rats in certain areas.”

In Lancaster, several residents cast doubt on the efficacy of totes.

“A tote is just a passing fancy,” said Lee Chowaniec at Monday night’s meeting, noting that rats are still seen in neighboring communities like Cheektowaga and Depew, which have totes in place. “It’s more than totes. You know that.”

Chowaniec wasn’t alone in his message to town leaders, who are uncommitted about whether the town should implement rat-resistant totes as part of its garbage collection contract with Waste Management.

Dan Beutler of Depew was testament to that. Even with a garbage tote at home, Beutler said he set four traps in his yard since last Thursday, and caught four rats by Monday. He distributed pictures of them to Town Board members.

“I have a little and big tote. I also have rats,” Beutler said. “Depew is not immune to having rats … It’s the people.”

“I’m not for totes at all,” Paul Welker said. “Just buy a good garbage can with a good lid on it.”

Welker and others said large totes could be too cumbersome for senior citizens to handle, plus their expense – upward of $100 – could be a burden. “You got trouble with rats, you’ve got to either buy a bigger cat or garbage can,” Welker quipped.

And while talk of rats dominated talk at the Town Board meeting Monday night, a dead rat lay on the second step of the Town Hall’s concrete steps leading into the meeting. Some observers wondered aloud whether it had been placed there on purpose.

The growing problem of rats in the community caused village officials last week to hire a part-time code enforcement officer to monitor violations of the village garbage ordinance as the village tries to educate the public on tips to curb the rat problem.

But town officials learned Monday that the problem extends far beyond village limits – into the town.

Two town code enforcement employees were dispatched Feb. 29 and spent the entire week checking homes townwide for garbage ordinance violations. Their work led to 500 violations notices mailed by the town to individual homeowners, many of whom they say did not use garbage cans or if they did, they were overflowing or lacked tight-fitting lids.

Those who received notices have two weeks to comply and rechecks will begin on those properties the week of March 14, said Matt Fischione, the town’s newly appointed code enforcement officer.

email: and