At its regular meeting earlier this month, Champlain Township council said it was working to get on top of a rat infestation problem in a concentrated area on High Street.

“Only one area is infested,” said Champlain Township Mayor Normand Riopel, adding that Herb-O-Dem had been setting out a lot of rat poison to reduce the rat population. Riopel said that a meeting had taken place with residents of that sector about one year ago.

“The only issue is on High Street in one area and until that is cleaned up, the rat infestation will remain,” Riopel said.

Riopel hinted that a push was needed to resolve an ongoing problem on High Street. In response, Vankleek Hill councillor Peter Barton asked if the mayor had any idea of what else could be done to eliminate the problem.

“I know this is a giant issue for the people who are living there (in that area),” said Barton, who also asked if the issue should be discussed at an open meeting.

The mayor replied that no names were being mentioned.

Riopel recalled that the same issue had existed while he was a councillor but that now that he was mayor, he wanted to resolve the issue.

“I think we should force it and enforce the bylaw. We give a lot of chances and this council is respectful to its citizens, but there is a time when action needs to be done and action has to be taken,” Riopel said.

“We’ve been fighting this situation for a long time,” added West Hawkesbury councillor Gerry Miner.

Barton pressed the mayor to see what he was suggesting and Riopel replied again that a “Part III” would be issued and was part of the township’s property standards bylaw.

A resolution, approved unanimously by council, directs staff to enforce property standards By-Law 99-25, Part III includes the residential standards as they apply to property maintenance and occupancy standards.

In addition to the 26-page property standards by-law, the township has a six-page by-law (2015-52) requiring properties to be maintained and kept clear of waste. That bylaw stipulates that, according to a section of the Municipal Act (2001), that, “if a municipality has the authority to direct or require a person to do a matter or thing, the municipality may also provide that, in default of it being done by the person directed or required to do it, the matter or thing shall be done at the person’s expense, and that the municipality may enter upon land at any reasonable time for such purposes and further that the municipality may recover the cost of doing such matter or thing from the person directed or required to do it by action or by adding the costs to the tax roll and collecting them in the same manner as property taxes…”

(In the past, it was reported at a council meeting that the township had tried to enter on an unnamed property to effect a clean-up, but the owner had called the police, claiming that the township was trespassing. The township was unable to complete that on-site clean-up.)

In a conversation after the October 8 council meeting, the mayor said that the rat problem seemed to be centered on a couple of properties in that area, adding that there was food and/or garbage outside.

“We will be as fair as possible,” Riopel said, “But why should they (citizens) suffer because of the rat issue? The problem is our by-law. This has been dragging on. It’s not going to take 20 years to fix this. It’s not fair,” he said.

Riopel said he had been to see the area in question and that there had been grass as “high as a tree.” One property owner has cut the grass on their property, however.

“That is where the rat nests are and that is where they hide so it needs to be cleaned up,” Riopel said, mentioning that there had been a rat problem on Mill Street but that the rat problem abated after the property had been cleaned up.