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Totes being considered for Village of Lancaster

Lancaster’s leaders are talking about rat-resistant totes to deal with the rodent problem plaguing the village.

No decision was made Monday night, but some village officials are pondering renegotiating a section of the town garbage contract with Waste Management that could allow for totes for village residents, but not town residents.

After the village meeting, Deputy Mayor Kenneth O’Brien III said the village could decide to purchase totes that would be assessed to residents as a onetime fee, even if town government is not doing it townwide.

A concern, O’Brien said, is whether village residents would end up being charged twice if the town eventually decides to get totes, too. No decision has been made about totes by the Town Board, either.

The townwide garbage contract, which includes the village, runs through 2019. But village officials last week requested a copy of the contract to study it.

Even if the village decides to go for totes, which can cost as much as $90, they are not a fool-proof solution. “One piece isn’t going to solve the issue,” said O’Brien, adding that the rat problem could diminish if enforcement of the village garbage ordinance and education efforts begin to have an effect.

In the two weeks since the village hired resident Jim Smith part-time to monitor enforcement of the village garbage ordinance, about 240 warnings have been issued, said Shawn Marshall, village code enforcement officer.

“Mr. Smith and I are working tirelessly to enforce the garbage code,” Marshall said, noting that about 90 percent of violations are for being issued to residents who aren’t putting lids on their garbage cans. The other 10 percent is people using bags.

“Jim Smith is doing well and we let him do his work,” Trustee William Schroeder said. “This was the first step and something we could do immediately.”

By now, village homeowners have received educational mailers about how to store their garbage and deter rats.

Schroeder said village and town leaders met last week with county health officials about the community’s rat problem. “I don’t think anybody is against totes, but they’re not the end all, be all,” he said.

The next thing coming in the village may be a “Rat Hotline.” Once the village offices have new phones in place, Schroeder said he’d like a rat hotline designated for residents to leave messages “if they don’t want to ‘rat’ their neighbor out,” he quipped.

Village garbage violations could reach a fine up to a maximum of $2,000, but final determination rests with the Village Court. Lancaster village officials last week began eyeing other municipalities’ policies for fines and warning letters.