Residents riled up over rat infestation

Penticton neighbourhood plagued by derelict homes infested with rats

George Murray uses his cane to point out the graffiti-covered vacant home

George Murray uses his cane to point out the graffiti-covered vacant home

It looks like a Penticton neighbourhood struggling with a rat infestation is going to be getting some help from the city after all.

George Murray, a resident of the small residential area off Power Street and neighbouring Queen’s Park Elementary, points to two decrepit buildings in the area as the source of the rats. Neither building is occupied and both have been decaying badly for some years.

“One has caught fire, it’s in terrible shape,” said Murray, who adds the problem buildings were vacant before he moved to the neighbourhood four years ago.

However, he said the city has been reluctant to do anything to help the neighbours, and even a visit from Mayor Dan Ashton on Monday didn’t seem to produce any results, at least at first. Murray was upset with Ashton’s comment that the neighbours needed to be setting traps.

“We got a dumb answer, of course. It’s two houses and he is saying everyone should take responsibility for their own place,” said Murray, adding that many residents have been setting out traps. But that hasn’t solved the problem, or other problems associated with the vacant homes.

Along with the vermin problem, Murray said transients were camping in the yards over the summer. He credits the city’s bylaw enforcement officers with doing what they could to help out, but would like to see the city force the owners to clean up the problem or remove the buildings.

“This was brought to our attention years ago. The city has been as proactive as we can in the sense of we’ve been utilizing pest control,” said Ashton, adding that Penticton doesn’t have any way to deal with the decaying buildings.

“We don’t have a bylaw that addresses that. We have an unsightly premises (bylaw) so if somebody looks after the yard, there is not much we can do,” said Ashton. “As long as they look after the yard and keep it boarded up and keep it safe, that is not an issue.”

Murray said he received word Wednesday that the city had engaged a pest control company to deal with the current problem, but Ashton worries about the cost to the city for such cleanups, and repeats his personal opinion that residents in the area need to set traps themselves.

“In my opinion, homeowners are going to have to become more proactive with this,” said Ashton, who also thinks it’s unlikely the decrepit houses are the source of the problem. “It’s definitely not the only source and it’s probably not the majority source either. These animals like to be close to food and water and there is no food in shells like that. They love compost piles, they love cedar hedging, they love any building they can get up into the attic of.”

Murray, however, points to a garage on one of the properties, which he said is filled with mattresses and similar materials, as well as the many backyard gardens in the area.

“The lady on the corner, she has a beautiful garden too, so they’ve got it made around here,” said Murray. “It’s just down from Queen’s Park, that’s the worst of it. They’re even around the garbage can at the school, where the young kids are.”

Ashton said city council has asked staff to prepare a report on the situation for the next regular council meeting, on Nov. 7. That, he said, will help council decide what direction to take.

“This has been going on for a number of years now, said Ashton. “I am hoping the owners will come forward and address that issue by either rebuilding it or demolishing it and starting from scratch.”