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Downtown Kansas City residents concerned by growing problem of rat infestations

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Downtown residents say it's become a disgusting problem.

The Kansas City Health Department says it's seeing an uptick in calls concerning rat infestations, as homeowners complain about vermin invading their living quarters, and, in some cases, causing lots of damage, as well as health risks.

Bill Snook, a spokesperson with the health department, says inspectors believe the rats are coming from construction sites, as rat burrows and nests are unearthed, and old sewer lines are breached. Snook says those excavations often provide rats an easy avenue to the surface.

When it comes to rats, Darryl Franke knows exactly where to search. His company, SOS Pest Control, has been battling the metro's creepiest varmits since 1989.

"Many times, (an infestation) is not even the resident's fault. It's from the sewer or a neighbor," Franke told FOX 4 News on Tuesday.

In the case of people living in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, it's construction sites. Franke says calls for help from people living downtown have doubled from a year ago.

"(Rats) can cause damage. They've been known to carry diseases. They can bite. All of those things," Franke said.

Franke says the damage is fairly common. One property manager in downtown Kansas City reached out to FOX 4 News, saying rats ruined one tenant's apartment, and nearly $7,000 had to be invested in new plumbing and kitchen cabinets. Franke demonstrated for our FOX 4 News cameras how piles of grass, junk and trash, like the ones found in alleyways or near construction sites, can attract rats.

"These piles give a rat or any rodent a great place to live in. It causes them to do less work to have a home," Franke said.

Business owners say the rats have to go. Mary Hinken says her operation at Zoo Bar, a popular watering hole on McGee Street near Sprint Center, is clean. Hinken says she often sees rats on the street outside, which leads her to say the city isn't doing enough to keep the downtown area clean. She says requiring downtown residents to clean up after their dogs would go a long way toward controlling the rat population.
"We don't have rats here," Hinken said. "Never have."

"We don't want filth around here. If you have bugs and rodents, that's a sign of filthiness. That's not something we want around us."

Snook says health department rodent inspectors have received 38 percent more calls for help from Kansas City, MO residents than a year ago.

Construction firm J.E. Dunn is building at least one project downtown -- a high-rise known as Two Light, which is situated near Sprint Center. Emily Fors, a spokesperson from J.E. Dunn, says the ground near Two Light has been sealed for roughly a year, and vermin in the downtown area isn't coming from there. Signs posted near the project say Two Light is due to open in the spring of 2018.