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County to handle abatement of rat infestation

Photo by Jordan W. Patterson A rat infestation at a former Sherman feed mill will be handled by the village and county Department of Health. The mill is pictured at its 118 Kendrick St. location.

SHERMAN — Operators of a former dairy feed mill in the village of Sherman and now the site of a rat infestation have told Chautauqua County health officials they do not have the resources to tackle the problem.

As a result, the village and county Department of Health — which declared a “public health nuisance” during a special meeting last week — will move forward with its own abatement.

Representatives of Farmers Mill had been served an abatement order to address the “unprecedented” rodent infestation of the 118 Kendrick St. property. The mill closed earlier this year, though feed had been left inside.

Mark Stow, director of Environmental Health, said representatives informed the county within 24 hours of being served that they “did not have the money or resources to handle this problem.”

Stow said it will be a “slow process” to address the infestation as to not make the situation worse. At last week’s special meeting, officials were told the feed left behind at the four-story mill, which had been open for more than 100 years prior to its closure, has provided ideal conditions for the rats to eat and reproduce.

Christine Schuyler, director of health and human services, noted her concern for a rat’s breeding cycle of seven to eight weeks and implications of not addressing the situation quickly.

“We really don’t want hundreds, if not thousands, of rats dispersing to the residents around there,” Schuyler said.

It’s not known how many rats or other rodents are currently at the mill.

Village Mayor Colleen Meeder said the infestation has been a concern for a couple of months. She said village officials have been able to inspect the property and were waiting on the nuisance order from the county to move forward.

“We are grateful that the Department of Health is involved and that they made that determination and gave it that designation so that we can actually take action, which is being led by the county,” Meeder told said. “It’s an unfortunate situation. Our farming and agricultural community has been struggling, and I think that’s a reflection of what’s been happening in our area. But we’re looking at ways to try and make some changes to our small economic situation here in Sherman.”

Meeder said the rodent problem is contained to the former mill.

Austin Wellman, county public health sanitarian, visited the property Oct. 1 and Oct. 9. He reported seeing both living and dead rats.

The county Health Department has already been in contact with a pest control agency, and Stow noted that another inspection will be scheduled to gauge the totality of the problem.

“We will work with the village and get access to the mill so we can address the problem,” Stow said. “It’s going to be a slow process, but we will go there either (today) or early next week and then come up with a good game plan.”

Stow pointed out that ridding the property of rats will not be as simple as leveling the mill or setting fire to the place. He said if not handled carefully, the rats might simply move from one place to another.

Most likely, Stow said, feed will slowly be removed to cut off the food supply while the rats are eradicated through poison.

The owner of a tractor store near the former mill said he hasn’t seen any rats near his business, but knows they are close.

“I was told they left a lot of feed there and I don’t doubt it,” the owner said. “They didn’t have a crew to come and clean it all up, and even if they did, I’m afraid a building like that that’s been there for so many years, there’s still going to be rats and mice in the walls.”

“I wish they would keep the feed mill,” he continued. “There were talks of Clymer coming up here because they have a mill that’s rather small. I knew the village has been after the owners about cleaning the place up. There’s been a lot of people complaining.”

Carly Gould and Jordan W. Patterson contributed to this story.

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