Rat problems discussed at neighborhood group meeting
by BRIAN NADIG
A discussion about rats near Normandy Avenue and Strong Street took center stage at the July 31 meeting of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association.
"We can’t go out into our backyards anymore," one man said.
Many of the 60 people at the meeting were from the Big Oaks neighborhood, part of which is located in the 41st Ward. The meeting was held at the Congregational Church of Jefferson Park, 5320 W. Giddings St.
Several residents reported that rats are living under the deck of a home where ducks, chickens, dogs, cats, a rooster, a hen and other animals roam the property. The residents said that the animal droppings and the food left out for the animals attract the rats.
According to the residents, the rats are tunneling through other properties on the block, leading to breaks in concrete walkways. They added that there are visible trails across lawns that the rats have used.
"Last night I could hear (the rats) squealing as they went back and forth from our houses," a homeowner said after the meeting.
A resident reported that the problem has been ongoing for about 5 years and thanked Alderman Jim Gardiner (45th) for his staff’s help in addressing the issue. "They are taking care of it," she said.
Gardiner, who attended the association’s meeting, said that the homeowner where the animals are living has agreed to have her property abated and plans to look into having the animals relocated. A citation has been issued in connection to overgrown bushes and trees on the property, he said.
The city also will be abating throughout the 4800 and 4900 blocks of Normandy.
A resident said that she has chickens in her backyard and that urban farming is a worthwhile endeavor as long as the owner keeps the yard clean and follows basic guidelines.
Gardiner thanked the residents for expressing their concerns.
"It’s neighbors like this and groups like this that make me proud to be your alderman," Gardiner said.
Gardiner, who took office on May 20, said that he has been soliciting feedback at block parties to help prioritize the ward’s infrastructure needs. He said that the ward’s annual allocation of $1.32 million in discretionary funds can only do so much, given that it cost $70,000 to resurface one block.
"I’m trying to rebuild this ward from the ground up," Gardiner said.
Also at the meeting, it was reported that vandals apparently tipped over the beehives which are part of the Olive’s Neighborhood Garden for the Hungry near Ainslie Street and Laramie Avenue. "It’s bad for the neighbors because it causes agitation of the bees … but we have it covered," association president Brian Wardman said.
Many of the association’s members volunteer at the garden, which years ago started out as an Eagle Scout project.
The next association meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28, at the church. The scheduled guest speaker is 16th (Jefferson Park) Police District commander Maureen Biggane.