West Allis says rats to open trash cans
City will require repeat offenders to buy lidded receptacles
West Allis — With a rat problem simmering on the east side of West Allis, the city is now requiring all residents, regardless of where they live, to buy city trash receptacles if their containers don't have tightly fitting lids.
The city trash carts cost $40 for a 63-gallon container or $45 for a 96-gallon container.
Though the rat problem doesn't seem to be getting noticeably worse, the city has tracked complaints for only two years, said Laura Temke, community health environmentalist for the West Allis Health Department.
Rat complaints are sporadic, she said. The city can go weeks without a complaint. But she had four in one day last week.
One measure of control
The ordinance the Common Council passed last week should be a big help in keeping the rodent problem down and clean up the city, officials say.
"We're trying to get rid of the blight and get unsightly properties to clean up a little," said Mayor Dan Devine, who worked with Alderman Michael Czaplewski on the ordinance.
Czaplewski said, "The rat problem is out there and it has to be fixed."
The city will do that by issuing warnings to property owners when sanitation workers find trash cans that have loosely fitting lids or no lids at all. If a second warning is issued within a year, the owner will have to buy a city trash cart.
Alderman Vince Vitale, whose 1st District is on the city's east side, voted for the new ordinance last week, despite concerns that the measure isn't as aggressive as he would like.
"I go along with it," he said. "But it will be a slow process."
Vitale had proposed a more sweeping ordinance several months ago requiring all homeowners to have city carts within two years. That proposal attracted little support, however.
He and Czaplewski differ on whether that would have been a burden on homeowners.
"We're not talking a lot of money," Vitale said.
But Czaplewski, noting that he has seen people paying for gas with coins, said, "The economy stinks. People don't have money."
On the other hand, for those who have inadequate containers or who are careless, he had no problem making sure they buy city carts as part of an effort to ensure rats can't get into their garbage, he said.
"It's their fault," Czaplewski said. "They don't care that they're affecting their neighbors."
Czaplewski sees the new ordinance as part of a wider attempt to get people to take better care of their properties.
For example, the city will be more vigilant in getting people not to put out their trash or recyclables before 6 p.m. the evening prior to pickups, he said. There are two places along 60th Street where he has seen bags of recyclables sit for days.
Similarly, some lawns are already getting overgrown, even this early in the season, he said. The city last year passed a new rule to address that problem.
In July, the council approved waiting for five days instead of 10 for people to cut their grass if it is taller than 6 inches, or the city will do it for them and send a bill, Czaplewski said.
"We have to change the whole mind-set a number of people have," Czaplewski said. "They just don't care."
But that is just a small percentage of people, he acknowledged.
"Ninty-five percent of people in West Allis abide by the law," Czaplewski said. "They don't want to have garbage out."
WHY RATS COME
The West Allis Health Department has compiled a list of things that attract rodents:
· Garbage and recycling items not in approved containers or lying on the ground.
· Garbage and recycling containers without lids or that have holes in them allowing rodent access.
· Insufficient garbage containers or dumpster- capacity resulting in overflowed containers that do not close and cause garbage to fall on the ground.
· Uncontained garbage/recycling placed outside before too many hours or days before pickups
· Brush, junk or other debris in the yard
· Dog feces accumulating in yards
· Bird feeders and bird food on the ground.
· Feeding wild animals.
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