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Ratsburgh -- name of the blog for good reason. feud halts rat-control efforts...
Exam-fee feud halts rat-control efforts By Jeremy BorenTRIBUNE-REVIEWWednesday, August 17, 2005 A squabble over a $60 test stopped Pittsburgh's 10 animal control officers from fighting the city's rat population this summer -- before they set a single trap. In June, six officers finished an eight-week rodent-control course that the Allegheny County Health Department provides free to municipalities, but only two of the officers agreed to pay a $60 fee at the end of the course for a required state Department of Agriculture certification test. Supervisors had promised the city would reimburse the officers for the test, but four refused to pay and weren't allowed to take it. The four remaining officers on staff have refused to take the course or the exam until the city pays the cost up front. "You can't have a city without rodent control," said Councilman Bill Peduto. "Obviously, we can solve this. If the city won't supply the voucher for public works to pay for this, I'll do it out of my own council district account." Peduto said he would raise the issue when council returns from its recess Aug. 30. Rat complaints have increased steadily in Pittsburgh. In 2002, a year before the city eliminated rodent control due to budget constraints, the health department received 37 rodent complaints. In 2003, that number shot to 81. In 2004, the first full year without rodent control, city residents filed 136 complaints. Of the 24 Allegheny County municipalities that enrolled workers in the health department's course this year, Pittsburgh is the only one that has balked at paying for the $60 exam. Last week, the city reimbursed the two animal-control officers who paid for the test two months earlier, but rat control won't resume until the entire staff is certified. So far, the city has been unwilling to pay in advance for the others, putting the rat-control program on hold. "In the meantime, residents have been advised to call (an exterminator), or buy traps from Home Depot," said Bill Klimovich, assistant director of the Public Works department's Bureau of Environmental Services. Budget cuts eliminated the city's rodent-control division in August 2003. With support of Teamsters Union Local 249, which represents animal control officers, City Council agreed in March to assign the job to those officers and to cover any associated minor costs. Klimovich said his office isn't supposed to pay the cost of certifying officers. Environmental Services already has little money, he said. Budget cuts over the past three years have reduced the size of the total animal control staff to 10 from more than 20. Klimovich said he hopes to solve the problem by the end of the year. That could be too late for control officers to deal with the seasons of spring and early fall, when rats' breeding peaks. Jeremy Boren can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (412) 320-7987.
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