Oakland CountyJuly 26, 2012
Communities seek grant to address rat problem
By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer
OAKLAND COUNTY — There’s no Pied Piper to lead the rats out of town, yet residents will tell you there are most definitely rats in southeastern Oakland County.
“My dog has killed rats, which worries me — even rat droppings are very dangerous to dogs,” said Marlene Pringle, Hazel Park resident. “The rats are very bold, just walking across the street on John R by the service drive in broad daylight. We were stopped at the light, and we’re like, ‘Oh my gosh — what is that?’ And then you kind of joke: ‘Should we yield?’ Holy mackerel!”
Amid mounting concerns, a number of communities are banding together to appeal to the state for funding to implement a program to address the situation as soon as possible.
The city of Pleasant Ridge is proposing a collaborative effort called the Southeast Oakland Rodent Control Program. The other participating cities are Madison Heights, Hazel Park, Royal Oak, Huntington Woods, Ferndale and Berkley.
To fund the program, Pleasant Ridge has applied for an Economic Vitality Incentive Program grant, requesting $150,000 from the state to be broken down as follows: $10,000 for education handouts, $15,000 for educational video, $75,000 for eradication services, $15,000 for marketing services, $25,000 for mailing services and $10,000 for legal fees.
The long-term savings of such a venture are estimated to be $30,000 annually.
“We’re in such a strange area here in southeastern Oakland County,” said Scott Pietrzak, Pleasant Ridge assistant city manager and lead author on the grant application. “We have a freeway, a zoo, golf courses, and these mini-metropolises, all kind of sitting next to each other, and rodents will come: They like garbage; they like food; they like dog feces. We have that around us, and unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to get rid of the problem, but we can attempt to control it, and if we can get a control on it, hopefully, they’ll go away.”
The cities involved would use the grant to devise an overall marketing and education plan to be distributed to residents, including direct-mail handouts and a special public service announcement video for the cable networks, websites and free DVDs.
The cities would also secure a contract with a company or two to provide inspection, cleanup and extermination services to residents, focusing on preventing rats from appearing in the first place and eradicating them if necessary.
The real way to combat them is to eliminate food sources and harborage, driving them out and keeping them from returning. An aggressive program will also clean up junk, remove litter, eliminate damaged refuse containers holding water, and more to try to eliminate breeding areas for flies and mosquitoes.
The goal of the program is a cleaner, healthier, safer environment for all residents.
While the cities wait to see whether the grant has been awarded, residents can do their part to help reduce the problem by following Pleasant Ridge’s inspection checklist.
Remove unlicensed and/or inoperative vehicles, it says, and remove nesting materials from the shed, garage or yard, including carpeting, rope, string, cardboard, paper, wood, woodchips, tree branches, automobile tires, hay or straw. Air conditioners, washing machines, dryer and refrigerators can also pose a problem if left outside.
Clean away leaves and cut tall grass; trim shrubs, so they don’t lie directly on the ground; and remove weeds and overgrowth from flowerbeds. Eliminate water sources, such as stagnant water on pool covers, leaking water spigots, birdbaths, fishponds and any low area where standing water can accumulate.
Remove edible products from the shed, garage or yard, including birdseed, flower seed, animal food, flower bulbs, animal feces, pet food, water dishes, and fruit from trees. Store all trash in metal or plastic garbage cans with tightly secured lids; check for holes and replace as needed.
Replace and repair any rotted or missing siding or trim on garages and sheds. Make sure the baseboards of any exterior structures are sealed up, so rats don’t burrow in there seeking warmth, and keep woodpiles high off the ground.
If you have a neighbor violating any of the above, it’s best to broach the subject with them in a polite way and point out the benefits of removing the problem. Rat reduction only works if everyone does their part; otherwise it’s like a game of whack-a-mole where you push the rats out of one property only for them to come back from another.
Every bit helps as the cities wait for real support from the state.
“The problem is bad, and it’s everywhere — the rats seem to be worse than ever before,” Pringle said. “Hopefully, this program all comes together; it would sure make a difference. Everyone has got to work together.”
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