Several Hastings residents are urging the Hastings City Council to work faster on ridding their neighborhood of rats living in an empty feed mill on Railroad Street, just off East State Street.
Speaking during public comment time Monday, Sharri Phillips said her neighborhood smells and people walking the River Walk cross the street to avoid the area. She’s afraid of the rats migrating into the rest of the residential neighborhood and since rats are prolific breeders, the condition could continue or grow worse.
Phillips asked the council to have, “more of a sense of urgency to resolve this problem…when do professionals come in to take care of the problem?” Property values and city officials work on the image of Hastings as a “positive, pleasant and safe place to live,” will be damaged without getting rid of the rats, “in a timely manner,” she said.
The city has been working on the problem for several weeks with the Barry Eaton District Health Department, City Manager Jeff Mansfield responded. Normally the issue would be handled by code enforcement, but the steps in the enforcement process takes time, up to going to court. Since it is as health hazard involving public safety they went to the health department for a faster solution, he said.
The health department inspects the site to see the steps taken by the owner with weekly updates with the owner. “There is progress,” he said. The owner is using poison and live traps, cleaning up and removing the food source.
Another resident, Michelle Went, worries about the health of her family. “This isn’t just one or two rats, it's thousands and thousands,” she said. "They will be looking for food and water…they could infest our home… I walk my dog…you see them crawling, they’re like molten lava under that place.”
Mansfield agreed the situation was urgent. “It’s up to us to work with them (the health department). They’re trying to figure out how to move forward.”
Hastings Police chief Jeff Pratt noted that the owner and residents have been very cooperative.
Richard Tinkler, resident in the area, suggested two quick ways to kill rats, saying if they take the food away at the mill, “the rats will go all over… I’m just one of the residents in that area. I know you’re working on it.”
Councilman Bill Redman said he is very concerned about the problem and assured the residents that the matter would be kept at a high priority for the council. Councilman John Resseguie said he is also very concerned: “We are on top of this; we will not let it slide.”