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Nassau legislators looking to ratchet down county rodent population

Nassau Republican legislators John R. Ferretti Jr. and

Nassau Republican legislators John R. Ferretti Jr. and Rose Marie Walker on Tuesday discuss a rat infestation problem in the area at a wooded preserve in Farmingdale. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Some Nassau County legislators and residents say their communities are going to the rats.

As proof Wednesday, Nassau legislators Rose Walker (R-Hicksville) and John Ferretti Jr. (R-Levittown) stood in front of a county-owned wooded sump in Farmingdale where they say rats have proliferated and infested nearby homes.

The Republican majority legislators are trying to revive a bill that would add a $450,000 amendment to the county budget, allowing for the hiring of exterminators who would respond to private homes and county open land.

Ferretti said county public works officials have told him they don’t have the resources to maintain open land sumps like in Hicksville and Levittown. He said the county needs to head off rodent-borne illnesses because it is already fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and an unrelated outbreak of legionnaire’s disease in Wantagh.

"This is a major issue in our community. If you just look around, you’ll see the sump is overgrown," Ferretti said. "As a result, we’re seeing this rodent infestation in our community. It’s not just a quality-of-life issue. We pay the highest property taxes in the nation and we have to worry about having a barbecue and rats running through our backyard."

The legislators’ proposal would retain exterminators who would respond to complaints at private residences to eliminate infestations at no cost. Residents would still be required to maintain their property, but could be covered financially for infestations coming from county property, officials said.

The County Legislature had proposed the amendment last year, but it was vetoed under County Executive Laura Curran’s budget.

Curran’s administration said last year’s budget included 13 new public health positions, including food safety, disease investigation and control. Officials said the Nassau County Health Department regularly conducts inspections for pests while managing the pandemic.

"Nassau County Executive Laura Curran is a national leader on public health and will ensure funding is available for combating these problems," county spokesman Michael Fricchione said.

Republican legislators said they would pay for the new rodent control measures by amendments that eliminate seven members of Curran’s public relations staff and are projected to save $1.1 million.

Helen Meittinis, who has lived in Salisbury for 47 years, stood with the legislators during a news conference Wednesday and said she has been overrun by rats under her home and next door where former neighbors didn’t clean up after their pets.

"Salisbury has been complaining for a very long time. We are surrounded by sumps and parks and we are a changing community," she said. "Many children are moving in and we are becoming a young community again, but these people are being met by rats. They’re afraid and they don’t understand it."

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