City of Cortland begins nuisance animal removal assistance program

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The City of Cortland Common Council unanimously approved a $5,000 assistance fund to help city residents with animal and pest removal at Tuesday’s meeting.

The new program would foot the bill for 50 percent of removal expenses and shall not exceed $200 in cost, according to its respective adopted local law. 

A breakdown of the city’s new adopted local law can be seen on Tuesday’s agenda under item No. 10.

The animals and pests listed in the local law are woodchucks, skunks, rabbits, raccoons, rodents, possums, and vermin. Residents who wish to participate in the program need to produce proof of abatement of the nuisance animals’ dens and burrows, as well as related vegetation, debris, and removal of food that attracts and provides sustenance to nuisance animals. 

“Failure to remove the nuisance animal harborage within 30 days of application for reimbursement shall result in a levy of all associated fees incurred by the city against the property, and may further subject the resident/owner to possible violation of New York state property maintenance code,” the local law states.

The new fund was established effective immediately and residents may only request assistance once per calendar year.

Removal work will be carried out by Sweeney’s Pest Elimination LLC, of Homer. Work, according to Sweeneys’ request for proposal (RFP), would start the next business day after receiving a call for service. The company will use Havahart traps to get rid of woodchucks, skunks, opossums, and rabbits and the cost of removal per animal will be $200, according to the company’s RFP.

“This is something we have never had before. This is putting the law in the books, enacting the law and getting it started,” said city mayor Scott Steve. He acknowledged the fund is going to require more money in the short term. “This is a short-term solution. We are behind the game on this.” 

Steve called the unwillingness and lack of funds to remove nuisance animals “a city-wide problem.”

“This program will get us to identify how bad this problem really is,” he added.

Councilmember Tom Michales (R-8th Ward) said he expects more contractors to join the program soon.

“We only deal with one contractor that is licensed for this type of removal,” he said. “By next year, I’d like to see more of them to make this program more competitive.”