They’re small (sometimes), squeaky and just freaky to find in your yard.
And while they’re not just a problem in St. Clair Shores, city officials are looking to try anything they can to get rid of the pesky rodents — rats.
“We’re obviously aware of the rodent problem we have in St. Clair Shores,” said Mayor Kip Walby. “This is just to try to put some of the stuff out there that we’re going to try in 2013.”
Acting City Manager Mike Smith introduced three different proposals to City Council at its Jan. 21 meeting to cull rats in the city, prefacing the plans by telling residents that they are works in progress. Indeed, in presenting the ideas to City Council at a regular meeting, he and Walby said they wanted to hear back from council members and the public before any decisions were made.
The most controversial plan is the proposed bounty program, wherein individuals would be allowed to place traps on property where they have written permission to do so in the city, assuming all liability for damage or injury. If a trap is placed on property not owned by the trapper, the person placing the trap must mark it with his or her own name and address. The traps must be checked daily and then rats must be placed in individual clear plastic bags and taken to the Department of Public Works weekdays, where trappers will receive a voucher for payment of $5 for each rat, which can be redeemed at the Civic Arena cashier window.
The catch is, payment of the bounty means the individual grants the city permission to inspect and bait the property where the rats were trapped.
“We plan on using that part of the program for our targeted baiting program. It will help us target what’s going on out there, whether we’re being successful or not,” Smith said.
“Do you think people need monetary encouragement to kill rats on their property?” asked Councilwoman Candice Rusie.
But Smith said it would be necessary because the city would then be asking for inspection permission.
Rusie was not convinced.
“I don’t like the idea of further manhandling” of the rats, she said. “I don’t want headlines that St. Clair Shores is encouraging people to trap rats. I don’t think that’s the image I want out there for St. Clair Shores.”
But not everyone agreed it was a bad idea.
“Right now, you see complaints on Facebook about rats,” said Councilman Ron Frederick. “I’d love to get this thing under control. This problem is not just St. Clair Shores — it’s universal.
“I’m anxious to see if this stuff will work.”
The other programs suggested by Smith to counter the rat problem were a targeted inspection and baiting program, and a possible move to new garbage cans with a new waste-hauler contract.
The city currently has an inspection and baiting program based on complaints from residents. A new program would be more targeted to areas where officials already know St. Clair Shores has problems and would entail a letter going out to all homeowners in the area, notifying them that inspection and baiting for rodents would occur in their neighborhood unless they sent the bottom portion of the letter back, opting out of the program. Inspectors would only look for violations relating to rodent infestations and would not issue tickets for any other code violations they might see while they are in the yard.
Indeed, if a resident allowed the city into their yard to inspect for rodents and infestations, they would first be given a list of all violations found and would have a week to fix the problem before being put on the track for a possible ticket.
“Then (the resident would be) left a notice of violation … still not a ticket” if the problems are not fixed in seven days. “The major goal of this program is to eliminate where these rodents live. We want to get folks to clean up their yard.”
He said inspectors would leave notifications at residents’ homes when they checked the bait boxes to let them know if the bait was taken.
City Council’s waste committee is putting contracts for the city’s waste hauling up for bid; the contract with Waste Management expires in June. Some of the bids sought seek prices for a waste-cart system in which residents would have a 96-gallon can with a molded lid attached that would be picked up by the arm of a garbage truck. Currently, there is no proscribed can for residents to use and two waste workers ride on each truck.
“It is very thick plastic,” Smith said. “We don’t have concerns that rodents can eat through this. We bid it out both ways — using the cart system like this or the current pick. We believe it will really help with the rodent program.”
“We’re looking for feedback,” Walby said. “We will bring this back to (City Council) shortly.”
To voice your opinion, you can find a link to the City of St. Clair Shore’s Facebook page or email addresses for city council members at www.scsmi.net.