DAYTON, Tenn.-After a year of repeated phone calls and visits with Rhea County officials, residents in the Valley Brook Village community soon may find a resolution for their "gopher-sized" problem.
That problem is rats. Big rats.
Last week, Rhea County Commissioner Bill Hollin told the county's Purchase and Finance Committee that he had received calls about the "rats as big as cats" in the neighborhood and that they're a nuisance to residents.
On Monday, Rhea County Attorney Carol Ann Barron said she had received similar calls "from time to time" about homes surrounded by big, smelly piles of trash. She said no formal action had been taken.
In law, a nuisance is an activity or condition that's harmful, annoying or causes offense. Those responsible for nuisances can be forced in court to deal with them.
Community resident Isaac Baker said he sometimes has "several" rats scampering over his yard.
Members of the nearby Watson family, who wouldn't give their first names, said that the "big, old gopher-sized" rodents had torn up insulation underneath their trailer.
Last week, Hollin took a tour of the neighborhood, but no rats were present. He said the near-freezing temperatures probably were responsible for their absence.
Barron said she compiled a resolution for the County Commission to review at this week's workshop and put it on the agenda for Tuesday's business meeting.
The resolution deals with "the regulation of nuisances and other practices detrimental to the inhabitants of the county" and gives the county authority to prohibit all things "detrimental ... to the health, morals, comfort" of its residents.
County rules already prohibit activities that will be obnoxious, annoying or unhealthful for other property owners.
There are 22 properties in the subdivision, according to the Rhea County property assessor's office. Riverbend Corp. in Ellijay, Ga., developed the area in 1990 and established restrictions for its property owners. Several attempts to reach the company were unsuccessful.
Valley Brook Village resident Winfred Cox said he contacted the Rhea County Health Department recently because he didn't know what to do about the rats and garbage. He said he was told that it wasn't in the department's jurisdiction "unless it was in a creek or raw sewage."
He said he had seen bags of trash lying around in neighbors' yards for months at a time.
"It doesn't cost anything" to throw away your trash, he said, and during the summer, "it smells worse."
Mrs. Watson said her family, who has lived in the neighborhood for 16 years, has tried to sell their home for five years with no success.
"Problems do exist with the trash," she said. "It'll knock your [home] value down."
Kimberly McMillian is based in Rhea County. Contact her at kdj424@bell south.net.