FAIRFIELD, NJ — The Fairfield Environmental Commission has proposed to strategically place bat houses in township parks to naturally combat the local mosquito problem and alleviate the need to spray toxic chemicals into the environment, Council President Joseph Cifelli announced on Monday.

Noting that Essex County has also recently announced its intention to place bat houses in all county parks, Cifelli explained that bats are known to “eat 40 percent of their weight in mosquitoes every night.” With the rising concern over the Zika mosquito-borne virus, he said that alleviating the mosquito population within in the township by attracting more bats would be helpful.

Cifelli also shared some statistics from other areas that have implemented similar ideas to attract the mammals.

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According to Cifelli, people in the Midwest are building bridges to attract bats, such as in Texas, where more than a million bats live in the crevices of the underside of one bridge. He noted said that the bats from this single bridge eat an average of 500,000 pounds of mosquitoes, beetles and insects in a single night.

Township Business Administrator Joseph Catenaro agreed that the bat houses would be a welcome sight in Fairfield.  

“Bats are not full of rabies, as a lot of people think,” he said. “With the mosquitoes gone, the comfort level for residents would increase, and there would be no mosquito trucks and aerial spraying of poison in our environment.”

Mayor James Gasparini added that bats get a bad reputation from the movies, but said that the animals are not harmful and agreed that they can be very helpful in controlling the mosquito population in Fairfield. 

“There are about 1,000 species of bats, and only three feed on blood,” said Gasparini. “The bat houses are a positive thing for the township.”

During Monday’s council meeting, a bond ordinance was introduced that would appropriate $960,000 for the acquisition of computer hardware and software, a police communication radio system and a 9-1-1 system in Fairfield was introduced during the meeting.

If adopted, the ordinance would also authorize the issuance of $912,000 in bonds or notes for financing part of the appropriation, according to the governing body.

At a previous meeting, Fairfield Police Chief Anthony Manna explained that the old communication system is outdated and would not allow effective intercommunication with other police departments. According to Manna, the Fairfield Police Foundation has agreed to contribute more than $300,000 toward the new system.

A second ordinance was introduced that would allow the township to update information for the community rating system (CRS) in as it relates to flooding. According to Catenaro, residents are currently paying 20 percent less for flood insurance because of the township’s proactivity with the CRS.

The public hearings on both proposed ordinances will be held at the next township council meeting on Monday, Feb. 24.

In other news, Councilman Michael McGlynn reported that Raymond Benson was recently honored for his 60 years of service to the Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department.

During a township firefighter dinner, Benson was recognized by the local, county, state and federal governments and even received recognition from the president of the United States.

McGlynn explained that Benson’s service to his country began with his military career and continued with his service to Fairfield in many ways.

“People like Ray Benson make Fairfield what it is,” said McGlynn.

Additionally, the mayor and council authorized the promotions of Probationary Police Officers Sean Wilk, Daniel Kalinowski and David Decarlo to permanent police officers.

The next Feb. 24 council meeting will begin at 7:00 p.m.