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A different type of rat

Monday, February 06, 2006
Special to
by STEVE PATTERSON Staff Reporter

It's no secret that Chicago's government buildings have been crawling with rats.
But one was recently infested with rodents, too.

Yes, one of the places crawling with government informants and various scoundrels is now crawling with actual rats.

The building bounded by Washington, Clark, La Salle and Randolph -- half of which is considered City Hall, half of which is called the Cook County Building -- has a rat problem.

Employees working in the lower levels of the Loop building have been complaining in recent weeks that they are seeing more and more rats in their workplace. One employee even says a rat scurried across her foot.

There's some speculation that the rats are being driven out of their nests underneath the Block 37 development at State and Randolph and making their way down underground pedways to the County Building.

"Any time you do excavation work, a lot of little creatures are moved around," noted Cook County Clerk David Orr, whose vital records division has witnessed the uptick in rats.
Even 1 'is too much'

"I deal with rats all the time," Orr added, laughing, "just not the four-legged kind."

All kidding aside, Orr said, a rat in the workplace "is too much" for anybody to tolerate, and while "it's one thing to see a rat, it's another to have one run close to you."

A spokesman for the sheriff's office, Bill Cunningham, said his agency's custodians have worked with the city's Streets and Sanitation Department, along with exterminators, to oust the creatures.

"They are baiting in and around the Daley Plaza and the City Hall/County Building," Cunningham said, adding that the sightings appear isolated. They haven't escalated "to a situation where we're being overrun, but there've been sightings."

Streets and Sanitation spokesman Matt Smith said that before any demolition and construction project like Block 37, the site is inspected and baited for rodents, with almost-daily follow-up by the same crews.

"We monitor that site routinely," Smith said, adding it would be natural to make an "assumption that it's related to the project nearby," though "we don't believe it's correct in this case."
While the source of the rodents remains in question, Orr said his employees are happy they'll be moving from those basement quarters soon to a higher level within the Daley Center.

So far, workers at the Daley Center, across the street from the City Hall/County Building, haven't reported any surge in rats.

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