Rat pa­trol clever ini­tial step by city

Ottawa Sun - - COMMENT -

Nor­mally, our re­ac­tion to city hall spend­ing is, “Oh, rats.” (OK, some­times it’s a lit­tle worse than that.) But on the city’s rat prob­lem, city staff have — sur­prise! — found a way to ap­proach a prob­lem in a novel way.

Between 2015 and ’16, city hall had more than 1,500 com­plaints about rats. But the prob­lem is, we don’t ac­tu­ally know how many rats are re­ally scut­tling around town.

So the city is go­ing to track them. You need good in­for­ma­tion be­fore you de­vise a strat­egy to con­front pesky varmints (if, in­deed, they are that much of a pest).

This is where city staff got clever. In­stead of spend­ing a bunch of our tax dol­lars on who-knows-what, the city has de­cided to use ex­ist­ing tech­nol­ogy to film the rats.

The sys­tem, which uses closed-cir­cuit TV al­ready in place to mon­i­tor sewer con­di­tions, will only cost the city as much as a con­trac­tor bills to keep count of the furry men­aces.

And it’s an ex­ist­ing con­trac­tor — not even a new one. So for now, the city says, two years of rat-count­ing won’t cost us much of any­thing.

The idea is that this count will give the city a bet­ter idea of where the rats are hang­ing out in the city. Then we’ll know where to go to fight the rat pack.

Rat-count­ing doesn’t sound like an ideal job to us — but hey, we can’t dis­pute the clev­er­ness of com­ing up with a pro­gram that is min­i­mally costly. It’s not of­ten the way gov­ern­ments do things. In the mean­time, though, some cau­tion. First, there are re­ports of rats run­ning ram­pant in parts of town, even some ten­ants who say their land­lords aren’t con­fronting the crea­tures.

There’s an in­di­vid­ual re­spon­si­bil­ity here. If there’s slop out­side apart­ments or homes, or filthy garbage cans and gen­eral messi­ness, well, that’s go­ing to make any pest prob­lem worse.

Land­lords, ten­ants and home­own­ers — not to men­tion busi­nesses — all have a role to play in keep­ing the city clean.

Sec­ond, the city has saved money through clever think­ing, for now. Let’s not as­sume this’ll translate into an af­ford­able rat-con­trol pro­gram.

The city must have a broad-based ra­tex ter­mi­na­tion plan, but also a plan on how it’s go­ing to tackle the roots of the rat prob­lem. It needs to ap­proach this smartly.

Oth­er­wise, tax dol­lars may end up be­ing wasted.

And then, “Oh, rats,” will be the gen­tlest phrase on the tip of our tongue.

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