02-28 rats collage-01

Palestine resident David Flores shows where rats have chewed up aluminum foil in his kitchen. Inset: Multiple rats caught by Flores' glue trap.

Palestine Mayor Steve Presley Thursday denied the city had a rat problem, calling claims of a rat infestation caused by fewer trash pick-ups “nothing but inflammatory rhetoric.”

“This is Texas; there have always been rats, and there always will be rats,” Presley told the Herald-Press.

Multiple attempts to contact City Manager Leslie Cloer were unsuccessful.

Earlier this week, Palestine resident David Flores told the Herald-Press his house, at 503 Hodges, near downtown, had become rat-infested. It started, he said, after the city's new trash schedule, cutting trash pickups in half, took effect.

“I've caught 11 this month already,” Flores, 57, told the Herald-Press Thursday. “I'm not an expert in rats, but it started about the time the city reduced trash pick-up.”

Nonsense, Presley said.

Garbage cans, called “polycarts,” provided by Waste Connections, are better than other cans at thwarting rodents and other creatures, he said.

“Plus, there was a canebrake recently cleared from that property. Rodents traditionally live in those tall grasses, so it's logical to assume they needed a place to go.”

Last month, contracted trash services in Palestine were reduced from twice-a-week to once-a-week.

Flores, who has lived in the historic “Hearne home” on East Hodges Street for three years, said the rat problem will become out-of-control, if residents don't get a handle on it. “We all need to gear up,” Flores said, while placing glue traps throughout his home. “This is going to be a war.”

Council member Dana Goolsby represents District 5, where Flores lives. She hasn't received any rats complaints, she said, since trash pick-up changed last month. She's heard, however, that residents aren't using their polycarts properly.

“I've gotten complaints and seen pictures of trash piled on the corner, or stacked all around the carts,” Goolsby said. “I'm sure that can't help keep rats away.”

Goolsby plans to raise the issue to city council, and ask residents if they have experienced problems. She also said she will contact Flores.

Residents with questions or complaints about trash should call code enforcement at 903-731-8417.

Kevin Redus, an exterminator with East Texas Home Inspection and Pest Control, told the Herald-Press cutting trash pick-ups in half could have contributed to a sudden rodent problem, but other causes are possible.

“New construction, or harborage around homes, would certainly have an effect,” Redus said. “People should also look out for trees touching or overhanging the house, and clutter in which rodents can build nests.”

Rats can cause property damage and spread numerous diseases, such as hantavirus and the plague

Flores emailed City Manager Leslie Cloer, warning that reducing the trash schedule could result in city-wide health issues – including rats.

“I'm not pointing fingers, or assigning blame to the city,” he said.

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