Rodent woes in county building

Workers' new location is infested with mice

Traps are placed weekly

May 15, 2002|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County employees, who said they were getting sick from the air in a Towson high-rise where they previously worked, have moved into a refurbished $19 million office building that has a problem of its own: mice.

Lots of mice.

The infestation is at the three-story, 161,200-square-foot Drumcastle Center at 6401 York Road in the Anneslie area, not far from the Baltimore city line. About 900 county and state workers moved into the building in January after years of health complaints in their former building, the Investment Building in downtown Towson.

County officials have acknowledged the mouse problem and said they are taking steps to correct it. When the building opened in January, the county brought in an exterminator once a month. By last month, the service was asked to place its traps weekly - costing an extra $1,800 in exterminating fees, officials said.

"It's a monstrously large building," said Elise Armacoast, county spokeswoman. "It's going to take some time to eradicate it."

Workers in the Drumcastle Center, a converted Caldor department store in the Anneslie Shopping Center, are being asked to log sightings of mice and their droppings. Each worker has received a detailed list from the county Health Department on how rodents live, with information ranging from their nesting traits to the distances they travel.

The handout includes 10 guidelines on how workers can help with the problem, including how to store food in the office. In addition, the memo includes a sketch of a mouse and a rat and their droppings.

`Creeping me out'

The mice "ate my cookies," said one Health Department worker, who requested anonymity because she feared retribution from the county. "It's creeping me out."

County officials speculate the mice moved in as workers reopened the old department store to renovate it.

Tom Kraeutler, a home improvement expert and spokesman for d-CON Rodenticides, said the key to eliminating the rodents is erasing their three necessities: food, water and shelter.

Kraeutler, who has his own syndicated radio show, recommends sealing the building as much as possible and eliminating food sources, including covering trash cans.

"If you've got a bag lunch, you're throwing meat to the lions," Kraeutler said. "It's a population that can sneak up on you to where they are eating your cookies."

Kraeutler notes that one pair of mice can produce 15,000 offspring in a year. And the mice need only a hole the size of a nickel to scamper through a space.

"They make themselves very at home," Kraeutler said. "Once they get in, the sky is the limit."

The infestation of mice is another chapter in the saga stemming from worker complaints about the Investment Building just north of the traffic circle in the middle of Towson.

$18.3 million lawsuit

In October 2000, more than 30 current and former employees filed an $18.3 million lawsuit against the owners and managers of the Investment Building at 1 Investment Plaza, contending that the owners didn't do enough to make the building safe and that they suffered respiratory illnesses as a result.

The original deal for the old Caldor building caused some debate after it was learned that Steven J. Sibel, the son of Hanan "Bean" Sibel, a wealthy former wholesale food broker who is the longtime campaign finance chairman for County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and chairman of the county Revenue Authority, held a 10 percent stake in the property.

County officials said they did not know of Sibel's involvement and that they dealt only with the company's managing partners, developers Larry Boltansky and Israel Freedman, and their attorneys. Among other investors, the Boltansky and Freedman families control 64 percent of the company, county documents show.

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