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Cortland tackles rats at Dexter Park

Rodents came from neighboring home

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

While on their way to play basketball Brianna Fortin, 13, left, and Hope Comfort, 15, walk past "Keep Out" and "No Tresspassing" signs posted outside Dexter Park in Cortland because of rats seen near playground equipment.

Neighbors said Friday the rat problem at Dexter Park that Cortland officials were grappling with started at a home next to the park that has been infested with rats for weeks.
Anthony Dintino, who lives at 15 Franklin St., said he had yet to see rats in his back yard, but knew of a problem a couple of houses down from him.
“I haven’t seen any dropping so that’s a good sign, and there’s no garbage that they would be attracted to,” said Dintino, as he looked over his back yard Friday.
Mayor Brian Tobin closed the park Friday morning, hours after the city had cordoned off the playground portion, following complaints of rodents.
Neighbors said they have been trying to help an elderly neighbor deal with the issue for more than a week, and the city’s closure of Dexter Park on Friday was just the latest in the turn of events.
Dintino added that he may now be less vigilant in scaring away some troublesome squirrels, in the hopes they may dissuade rats from migrating toward his house.
Tobin said about 10 a.m. that Sweeney’s Pest Elimination of Homer would advise the city on how to proceed.
“There have been discussions about how to prevent them from dispersing,” he said. “We will work on the recommendation from Sweeney’s about how to address it without it being a public hazard.”
The park on Franklin Street was vacant Friday save a handful of city Youth Bureau staff members who were on hand to post signs and keep people out of the park. Playground equipment stood encased in yellow caution tape.
Tobin said the issue came to the attention of the city Code Enforcement Office last week and officials responded and told the resident to deal with it.
“The first (sign) that there was any issue in the park was yesterday (Thursday),” Tobin said. “If there is a problem, they should be reaching out to the city code department. These are the kinds of things that if they are not dealt with, one person’s problem can become a lot of people’s problems.”
Tobin said the city’s priority is making sure the rats don’t spread — sightings have already been reported on nearby Central Avenue. He had no time frame for when Dexter Park would reopen, saying only that it will be after the rats are eliminated.
Alderman Troy Beckwith (D-7th Ward) will knock on doors this weekend to identify any other locations where rats have been spotted, Tobin said.
Meanwhile Friday, neighbors like Diane Almeida, who watched the park’s activity from her Elm Street porch, hoped for a solution.
“It’s a shame we have to worry about rats in the neighborhood,” she said.

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