The Chicago Ridge Village Board took several steps this week aimed at solving the local rat problem that was the focus of a town hall meeting on Sept. 10.
The board meeting on Tuesday started out with an emotional ceremony led by Police Chief Rob Pyznarski, who announced Detective Anthony Layman as the first winner of the Steven A. Smith Officer of the Year Award. Lisa Smith presented Layman with the award named after her son, Officer Steven Smith, who was killed Sept. 13, 2015, in a traffic collision caused by a wrong-way driver under the influence of alcohol on Interstate 294.
Layman, who received a standing ovation, was chosen for the award by his peers, practically all of whom were present in their full dress uniforms.
Following the ceremony, trustees passed two ordinances amending the municipal code describing when properties can be deemed “a public nuisance.” Property owners who do not maintain their properties and “allow any condition to exist that would attract or encourage an infestation of insects or rodents.” will now face harsher penalties.
Trustee Jack Lind had suggested including “insects” in the new verbiage because in addition to rodent infestations, he said things like bedbugs can also spread quickly.
The board also amended the requirements for structures enclosing large garbage containers, such as dumpsters, used by businesses and multi-family dwellings. Wooden enclosures will no longer be allowed, and must be replaced with either chain-link or wrought-iron fencing.
Broken down and poorly maintained dumpster enclosures behind six apartment buildings on Pleasant Boulevard had turned the sites into havens for rats, and Mayor Chuck Tokar said that public works employees were removing them all this week.
The board also announced the hiring of a licensed environmental health practitioner, who is also certified for pest control. The man will work as an independent contractor, paid $65 for each inspection.
Tokar said the first order of business would be to conduct a second inspection this week on the Royal Palace, a banquet hall at 6425 W. 111th St. that has been closed for about two weeks due to a rat infestation.
The new inspector replaces Rich Ruge, who resigned after being heavily criticized for not having the proper qualifications and not conducting regular inspections.
A second exterminator with Guardian Pest Control is also being hired, for a total monthly cost of $3,200, up from $1,600. Trustee Fran Coglianese explained that dry ice provided by local business Praxair is also going to be used for pest control. She said Praxair will supply the cubed dry ice, which will be stuffed down rat holes. It releases carbon dioxide, which will suffocate the animals.
Tackling another cleanup related issue, the board also approved a one-year contract with Waste Management’s At Your Door program allowing homeowners to have old TVs, electronics and household hazardous waste products picked up at their door.
The service, costing households an extra $1.25 per month, will start Nov. 1.
“We look forward to rolling out the program,” said Mike Morley, a Waste Management representative who had explained the program at an earlier meeting. He said residents may contact Waste Management by email or phone to arrange pick-ups.
Tokar noted that residents who responded to a survey gauging interest in the program “were 3-1 in favor of it. I would venture a guess that we will be continuing this beyond the one-year trial period.”
Lind said it was important to get the program in place before the holiday season, when people are often looking for ways to dispose of old electronics