It's a problem Royal Oak and other local communities have been dealing with for years: Rats.
"I get people that call me that complain about rats. They think the rats are going downtown and eating dinner and coming back," said City Manager Don Johnson. "That's not happening."
Rats don't travel great distances for food and, as Mayor Jim Ellison pointed out, they can't afford the parking.
Joking aside, when asked to rate satisfaction with city services, pest control ranked at the bottom in a recent city-wide survey. And in a 2012 survey, rats were cited as one of the city's most serious problems.
Johnson noted that two rats can turn into a million rats in 18 months in ideal conditions.
At the strategic planning session held Saturday, Johnson presented a list of the "big things" the city can do, including:
- require rodent-proof containers – no setting plastic bags or cans without lids at the curb
- move to automated trash collection where residents use large 96-gallon wheeled containers
- use geographic information systems to track rodent activity
- offer a city-wide neighborhood amnesty clean-up day and allow residents to dispose of constructions materials that are not picked up during normal trash collection but often provide harborage for rats
- deal with the problem through tougher code enforcement
- provide more education via the city's website or send information included with quarterly water bills
On a positive note, Department of Public Service Director Greg Rassel said Royal Oak's refuse collector, Rizzo Services, reported the quantity and size of rats were both down last summer.
"When they pick up trash they don't see rats running out of garbage cans," Rassel said. "A year ago there was a problem."
Johnson believes the main reason the rodent population is down is weather related. Royal Oak had a severe winter one year ago, he said.
"If we get another couple of mild winters, I think we'll be right back where we were," he said. "Let's hope the 10 degree below zero weather we've had proves to be somewhat valuable."
Which of the city manager's ideas do you think would work the best? Tell us in the comments.
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