Illustration by Natalie Wainwright

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At the July 9 City Council meeting, aldermen approved the expansion of the City’s rodent-abatement services program to include condominiums, townhomes, and other multi-unit, multi-owner properties. Before the expansion, the Health Department provided treatment at no cost for only single- and multi-family owner-occupied buildings with up to four units.

As is already the case with single-family and smaller owner-occupied buildings, the City requires a release of liability for anyone to obtain the services, said Carl Caneva, division manager of the City’s Health Department. 

Many multi-unit buildings have tenant organizations, property managers or associations that oversee pest control, said Mr. Caneva. Expanding the City’s program could help concentrate rodent-abatement practices in problem areas of the City or areas without adequate practices. Most of the expanded services would be performed by private contractors in cooperation with the City and following the City’s practices.

So far the City has received 159 requests for rodent-abatement services, Mr. Caneva said, each of which receives a response by phone or email within one business day.” On average, requests are closed in 16 days,” he said. The average annual cost for rodent services has been about $2,000, which includes bait, traps, shovels, flags, posters and flyers. Expanding the program could cost between $300 and $500 per multi-family building, he said.

The City’s rodent-abatement services conform to practices developed by the Centers for Disease Control, Mr. Caneva said. He also said the City’s Health Department “utilizes staff licensed in Pest Control through the Illinois Department of Public Health to provide these services.” The services include distributing educational materials such as newsletters and targeted periodic surveillance of areas with “historic rodent issues,” he said. If the affected residents, building owners or property managers cooperate with the City’s recommendations and hire an exterminator, the City would not issue citations for violations, he said.

“Rodents must be built out of communities,” Mr. Caneva said, “by repairing sources of shelter such as garages, sheds and decks and by removing food sources such as pet-food bowls, bird houses, seed bags and standing water. …Using the principles of Integrated Pest Management, residents are first notified of any harborage areas, educated about mitigating them, and as a last resort pesticides are placed strategically in locked sealed containers,” he said.

“There is a rat problem along the lakefront,” said Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward. “They live in the rocks, and they come west in winter and sometimes they never return to the lake. Some streets that are all condos [do not have rodent control in every building] and essentially the rats are just moving up and down the alley. …  Once you get a rat problem it’s easy for them to become entrenched. … Bird feeders, compost piles [and pet waste] are feeding them.”

Ald. Wynne also said she agreed with the education plan. “Piles of rocks, piles of loose boards – we’ve had to talk residents out of bird-feeders: ‘You’re feeding rats; you’re not feeding birds.’”

Rodent Academy

The staff of the City’s Health Department are proposing to initiate an in-house rodent academy, mirroring the current best practices in New York City, according to a July 3 memo from Carl Caneva, division manager in the Health Department. The academy “would be used to train field staff across departments (health, community development, fire, public works, and utilities) in the identification of areas and conditions encouraging rodents.”

Licensed pest control personnel would offer training sessions at least once a year, which would include field inspections as well as class time.

The proposal was not discussed by Council members at the July 9 City Council meeting.