MONESSEN – A group of angry residents gathered at the Monessen Municipal Building last week, asking council for help with eradicating a rat problem in their neighborhood.

“The rats are running around the houses right now,” said Lori Essey, who lives on Aliquippa Avenue. “We have video of these rats climbing on people’s countertops. We also heard that someone’s pet was bitten by one of the rats.”

Several of the residents told the council they are worried for their safety.

“This is a serious public health problem. You have children, you have animals, you have people who pay taxes. These people are taxpayers and they deserve for this council to do their job,” said Carroll Township resident Paul Mountain, whose daughter lives on Aliquippa Avenue.

Mountain said residents have already reported the problem to the Westmoreland County Health Department and the city’s code officer.

Council members said they were taken aback by news of the rodent invasion.

“This is the first time I have heard about this,” said Deputy Mayor and Councilman Tony Orzechowski. “We will take care of this (Friday).”

Shock was apparent on Councilwoman Lois Thomas’ face when she looked at several photos that were distributed to council members.

“I wish I would have known about this sooner because if we saw this, it would have gotten done sooner,” she said.

After talking with several of the residents, Councilman David Feehan said the problem seems to have originated at one of the rental properties on Aliquippa Avenue.

“From what I hear, this property appears to be ground zero,” he said. “There’s trash outside and that could be attracting the rats. We are going to talk with the owner of that property to get to the root of the problem. I will also contact our exterminators and arrange for them to catch the rats as soon as possible.”

In other business, the council:

n Hired Jenna Haniotakis as a full-time police officer, contingent on passing all necessary clearances and processing of necessary paperwork. Haniotakis will replace one of the four full-time officers who was hired last week but later decided to turn down the job after accepting a position with another police department.

n Authorized WEC Engineers to obtain quotes for emergency repair of a stormwater inlet at 530 Rebecca Street.

n Set Monessen’s Halloween trick-or-treat hours for 6 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 26

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