Two Evanston aldermen are calling for the city to change an ordinance that limits the health department’s ability to respond to local rat infestations.
At Monday night’s city council meeting, Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd Ward) raised the issue that, under current law, the city of Evanston’s health department cannot call exterminators to local condominiums and other commercial real estate properties.
“If you live in a single family home, the city will inspect your property and then pay for the exterminator to come out and exterminate the whole neighborhood,” Wynne said Thursday. “However, if you live in one of these condos—and these are people who have lived there for 15 or 20 years—our ordinance does not permit the city to do the same thing in that neighborhood, which is to say, ‘we’re going to attack this problem in a comprehensive way’.”
Constituent reports of rat sightings are up this year, say both Wynne and Ald. Donald Wilson (4th Ward). While neither expressed certainty as to the cause of this increase, both mentioned that the mild winter could have something to do with it.
Wynne called rat infestations a public health issue, noting that the rodents have been known to carry disease. She said that infestations must be addressed on larger scale and in a unified manner, otherwise the rat problems will shift rather than cease.
“Frankly, rats are just too smart,” Wynne said. “They will just move from one building to the next.”
Wynne, whose lakefront ward contains numerous condo buildings, said that she was still determining how to best address the issue in an amended ordinance. An effective solution would have to determine how multiple condominium boards, meeting on different schedules, would quickly coordinate when rat problems arose, she said.
But the city can’t solve the problem on its own.
Wilson and Wynne both called upon the public to help the health officials prevent infestations. They cited open trash containers, garbage outside of bins, bird feeders, furniture left in alleys, open compost piles and dog feces as potential culprits.
Residents should call 311 or send an online notification to report rat sightings and schedule inspections. In order for the city to inspect and treat a property, the owner must sign a “rodenticide release of liability form”.