The Canal Winchester Times

City hoping to 'skunk' pesky marauders

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Canal Winchester residents and the city have negotiated a short-term solution for trapping nuisance skunks.

During the Oct. 29 committee of the whole meeting, Public Works Director Matt Peoples presented city council with a negotiated Varmint Guard contract that calls for the city and residents to share the cost of trapping the animals, as long as 10 or more neighboring residents participate.

"We took the contract that (resident) Erin Burchwell got from Varmint Guard and I talked to them and they said they'll bill us separately from the property owners," Peoples said. "We got an agreement today to allow them to go in and set up traps, but we want a minimum of 10 properties, and then we'll pay half."

The rate is $200 per property, plus tax, for a minimum of five properties for 10 days, excluding weekends. Varmint Guard agreed not to charge extra based on the number of animals trapped.

No deadline has been set by which residents must express interest in participating in the program; city officials are hoping Burchwell will help organize it.

"Because Burchwell has been spearheading this in her neighborhood, we'll contact her and ask that she go to her neighbors and get them to sign up if there's still enough interest," Peoples said.

Councilman Rick Deeds said he was concerned that this agreement would open the doors to many other similar claims.

"What happens when we get 100 residents asking for this? What's the cutoff?" Deeds asked.

Councilwoman Marilyn Rush-Ekelberry said she wants to make sure anyone interested in signing up for the service has a copy of the contract and understands that it doesn't guarantee a solution.

"Will each homeowner be provided with a copy of the contract?" she asked. "Because it says they won't guarantee the capture of a species, but you're going to pay, whether they catch something or not."

Due to the change in the weather, Peoples said he hopes to get moving on this "stopgap" effort soon, or the city may have to wait to take action until next spring, with a more permanent solution at that point.

"We need to get this out this week or next or we're not going to have the interaction (with the skunks) that we've had and it may not pay to do it," he said. "It may be better to do it at another, more active, time."

According to Councilman John Bender, this is the first time in his 17 years on council that people have complained about skunks.

"I don't think this is going to happen again, so let's get a good plan together in case it does. But I don't think we're going to have to worry about it," Bender said.

Peoples said the Varmint Guard agreement is only meant to be a short-term solution. He said the city staff is continuing to research possible long-term agreements that he hopes could be in place by spring.

"Again, this is meant as a stopgap while we're working through a permanent program, but then we'll have to decide to do that," Peoples said.

If 10 or more residents do choose to participate in this Varmint Guard agreement, council still will be required to vote to allocate funds through a "moral claim" process, Law Director Gene Hollins said.

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