By Anna Lothson
A few questions were left on the table last week when the Oak Park village board removed the plan that would have allowed for the humane killing of pigeons.
Animal activists made it clear they weren't on board with this plan, but as explained at the meeting, it was mostly practical matters that let the birds off the hook — at least for now.
Village President David Pope explained to the crowd that because the Marion Street viaduct already has approval for power washing and painting and will soon be undergoing a makeover, it would be best to reevaluate the system already in place to deter the roosting pigeons.
The initial problem with that plan, however, is holes that formed in the netting created a gateway for pigeons to sneak through. One pro-pigeon person at last week's meeting expressed concerns that the netting inadvertently acted as traps, but the village's next measure to combat the issue may patch up those problems.
Mike Charley, environmental health supervisor for the village, said they're working with the village's original pest-control company, which initially installed the netting. He said the company met with village engineering staff Thursday, and they were able to identify additional areas for netting, as well as portions needing repairing.
The contract with the group included roughly $7,400 for netting, bird slides and wires under multiple viaducts, and because they're under warranty, the group will ratchet up its efforts to fix the problems at no additional costs above the agreed amount. Charley said the village has no plans to invest additional funding in other measures at the moment. The only other efforts, he said, will be staff time to remove any pigeon feces in the area.
"We are going to do our best to manage the situation," Charley said. They hope to keep out the flocks for now and will address the problem if needed in the future. "It's not costing anything additional in the grand scheme of things."
Charley said the main reason not to spend additional funding, such as the estimated $15,000 for a more intensive pest-control management program, is because of the Marion Street upcoming viaduct design project.
Jim Budrick, village engineer, said bids for an enhancement Marion Street viaduct will be issued in the fall or early next spring. The project involves new LED lighting, decorative archways and a general cleaning of the structure.
Overall, village staff determined it was premature to engage in spending money on further pigeon-prevention programs until the work is completed.
The village was able to secure an $875,000 grant for the Marion and Ridgeland viaduct enhancement project, which covers about 80 percent of the costs. Budrick said a committee looked at the structures years ago and was able to move forward once grants became available.
In the meantime, Charley said it's important for residents and businesses to keep garbage covered and not feed pigeons or other birds.
"Pigeons will survive without people feeding them," he said. "I know it seems nice, but it just encourages more pigeons."
Although it's a rare instance, Charley said people have been cited for feeding pigeons. The act falls under Oak Park's general nuisance ordinance, but he said it's used more as a tool to raise awareness. The ordinance applies to any kind of feeding that encourages unwanted wildlife.
"You have to feed in an appropriate way," he said. "Anytime you have wildlife it can create nuisance issues."