Evanston Health Director Jay Terry says rat infestation complaints this year far exceed numbers for any other year for which his department has records.

Garbage carts

Chewed up garbage carts in an Evanston alley. 

In a memo to aldermen Mr. Terry said efforts to control the problem have been severely hampered because the city has run out of funds to replace broken-down city-owned garbage carts that have holes providing rats easy access to an ample food supply.

He said wards 1, 4, 5, 8 and 9 have been particularly hart hit and that health department inspectors have had to stop issuing violation notices to residents whose carts have holes because no new carts are available.

Aldermen Monday approved a request from Public Works Director David Jennings to shift $60,000 in funds left over from a viaduct pigeon-proofing project that came in under budget to buy about 900 new carts, which he said should let his department fill the backlog of requests for new carts and keep up with new requests until the end of the fiscal year next February. The city has already replaced 1,260 carts this year — up more than 50 percent from levels of the past several years.

A brief walk through city alleys suggests that perhaps half of the 16,000 or more garbage carts in the city have holes in them, and Mr. Jennings says all the carts are nearing the end of their useful life and will need to be replaced.

That could add up to a $1 million expense for the city. He said his department plans to recommend a longer-term solution as part of its budget request this fall.

He added that the new garbage carts the city is acquiring are constructed of heavier plastic than the old ones being replaced.

The old carts have proved no barrier to hungry squirrels who chew through the plastic in search of food, creating an easy entry point for the rats.

Mr. Jennings says the newer carts are more squirrel-resistant, but not completely squirrel proof.

The carts permit substantial savings in labor costs for the city by reducing the size of garbage truck crews, but leave the city with the cost of providing the standardized carts that fit specialized lift equipment on the trucks.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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