Chicago Ridge officials promised to remedy a rat problem that is concerning many residents, as evidenced by the standing-room-only crowd at a town hall meeting on the issue Saturday morning at Village Hall.
Nathan Comanse, of Guardian Pest Control, spoke during the three-hour meeting about the work his company has done since being hired four months ago, and what residents and businesses can do to reduce the rodent population.
“Everyone has to work as a team,” he said.
Many residents become alarmed when they heard the village had closed the Royal Palace banquet facility indefinitely last week due to a rat infestation found in the basement of the building at 6254 W. 111th St. A broken dumpster behind the Pepe’s restaurant at 6336 W. 111th St. has turned into a feeding ground for rats, infuriating nearby residents who are finding rats in their yards. Other badly maintained dumpsters behind some multi-unit buildings around the village have also been blamed.
When asked how the problem at Royal Palace could be allowed to get so bad, Trustee Bill McFarland said the latest available paperwork shows that an inspection of the property was done last April. However, Trustee Bruce Quintos argued that several other documents provided to trustees indicate there had not been an inspection since last year. He said the information showing the April inspection was not date-stamped, and was only turned in to the village by the health inspector on Friday.
“It could be a clerical error,” said McFarland after the meeting, acknowledging that trustees were given three different documents with conflicting data about when inspections were done.
Comanse focused much of his talk on what residents can do to help solve the problem. He said preventing rats from getting access to the “food, structure and water” they need to survive is the first step. “There are no free rides, Make life as difficult as possible for them.”
The exterminator said the poison bait his company puts outs “is only good if something eats it. Rats aren’t really picky, but they know what they like. If they have other preferred foods available, they won’t eat bait.”
“Dog feces is a fine food source for rats. It is like filet mignon for them, unfortunately,” he said, stressing the need to pick up after dogs immediately, on public streets as well as yards.
Comanse also advised against using birdfeeders, because rats and mice eat the seeds that get scattered on the ground.
He said rats live near water sources, and fixing leaky spigots and pipes would cut off access to it. He said just as with mosquito prevention, getting rid of any standing water is also be helpful,
When a woman asked if she should drain her backyard pond, Comanse said no.
“If it provides you with enjoyment, there is no need to go that far,” he said. “You’re never going get rid of all the water sources.”
Keeping properties well-maintained, without high grass or woodpiles or debris for rats to hide or nest under is also advisable, he said.
“We don’t want to incite panic,” said Trustee Sally Durkin, pointing out that officials from neighboring communities such as Oak Lawn, Worth and Alsip have reported similar problems.
After a couple of residents reported seeing “hundreds” of rats in place, or being afraid to go outside, Comanse cautioned against exaggerating the numbers involved, and or the danger posed to humans.
“It’s really easy for fear to take over. When people start talking about hundreds or thousands of rats, I have to say that those numbers are very unlikely. While he said that rats can give birth seven times a year, to as many as 12 per litter, he never encountered more than 40 rats in one place.
“Unless you’re trying to feed them by hand, there is little chance of being bitten,” he added. He said most rat bites are inflicted on children sleeping on floors, often with crumbs on them. He also noted that the active ingredient in modern rat poison is an anticoagulant similar to the drug Coumadin or warfarin and would have little effect on humans or dogs or cats.
“I’ve learned more about rats than I ever thought possible. We have to take this to heart and make changes and make changes to the way we live. If we all work together, and this means the businesses too, we can solve this,” said Mayor Chuck Tokar.
“If we have to pay more, we’re going to pay more,” said Tokar.
He pointed out that the multi-unit buildings and businesses identified as problems have already been given seven-day notices to clear up the problem. Otherwise, fines will be imposed and more businesses could be closed.
Last week, the village board authorized the hiring of four part-time property inspectors to help deal with the problem, and earlier this year, fines were raised to as much as $750 for ongoing problems with dumpsters.
Responding to residents complaining of getting no response when calling the village about rat problems, Trustee Jack Lind said that would be fixed too.
“We’re putting our money where our mouth is. If you’re telling me that no one is calling you back, it is not sitting well with us. The situation will be rectified or people will lose their jobs,” said Lind.