City works to quell Hemming Plaza rat problem

Mayor says he wants park to be a showplace for downtown

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It seems rats are a common sight now at Hemming Plaza downtown, and Brandon Hinkle says he's surprised not much is being done to clean up the problem.

"Can I be honest?" Hinkle said. "Just because we are homeless and we are down here and this is where we congregate, I mean, rats? What did we do? I mean, rats?"

After Channel 4's look into the infestation last week, Mayor Alvin Brown's staff says it has been taking some action by having the area cleaned and the pubic works department look into ways to exterminate the rats. A crew was working Monday morning to clean the park, and there were some rat traps within the area.

Brown said he wants Hemming Plaza to be a showplace, but that's hard to do with a rat problem.

"We have taken all recommendations into consideration, and one of them is to make sure we clean up Hemming Park Plaza, and we will," Brown said. "Making sure we collect the trash and take care of the rodents. We are focused on that like a laser. I think at the end of the day with all the ideas we have, downtown will be in great shape."

Brown said there is a council committee set up looking at problems with Hemming Plaza. Councilwoman Denise Lee, the chair of that committee, said in a phone interview that committee members are working on having someone come and oversee the park to keep the problems with the homeless under control. But this is the first she has heard about the rats.

"I am very, very concerned about the rat infestation," Lee said.

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