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Suspects are quick, furry, gray, unwanted

Courthouse renovations in Dade City introduce a gang of skittering rodents to the Clerk's Office, where workers warily persevere.

By CHASE SQUIRES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 25, 2002

DADE CITY -- The court will now hear the case of Clerks v. Mice.

And this time, there are plenty of witnesses.

Shortly after 2 p.m. Monday, a tiny, gray intruder made a tentative dash into a hallway between cubicles in the newly renovated Clerk of the Circuit Court office. A few cautious employees got to their feet. A crowd of courthouse visitors gathered at the front counter, peering over the edge.

"There it is," someone shouted.

"It's a rat," another called out.

It was a mouse, just the most recent in a series of sightings in the spacious second-floor office.

A few minutes later, the mouse made another dash across the hallway, ducked under a cubicle wall and disappeared.

Work resumed.

Pasco County Facilities Manager Dennis Lemons said Monday that he is aware of a few rodents in the building and believes they sneaked inside aboard crates of air conditioning equipment and duct work as crews complete the last of three phases of demolition and renovation. The $7-million project is scheduled for completion in August.

"Everything inside that building has been demolished, all the demolition work is complete, the ceilings have all come down and are being replaced, so it's not like there's a nest of them hiding somewhere," Lemons said.

The work also included removing the delicatessen that used to be in the courthouse, so there's no permanent supply of food. Lemons said the area that used to be the deli is now a courtroom, so there can't even be any mice snacking on something that had been left behind.

At least one mouse has been captured, using a sticky trap that snares mouse feet, and a professional exterminator will be asked to redouble his efforts after Monday's sighting, Lemons said.

Barbara Rulison, Clerk of Court administrative services director, said the staff in Dade City has dealt well with the mouse troubles.

She said as far as she knew, no one had been staying out of work or left their positions because of the mice.

"It would creep me out, but our staff is so resilient," she said. "They seem to be going with the flow. We know it's under construction, and the county is doing what it can."

Betty Henderson, assistant director in charge of civil matters, agreed staffers in east Pasco are dealing with the situation and keep the New Port Richey office advised.

Both Henderson and Rulison work in the Clerk of Court's New Port Richey office.

"It may startle people for a minute," Henderson said. "It's just like any pest, whether it's bugs or this. When they surface, you deal with them."

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