Pigeon problems have led to a hefty bill for La Crosse’s parking utility.

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Jim Flottmeyer, city parking utility director

Flottmeyer

The city Board of Public Works Monday approved a $33,000 bid to clean up pigeon feces in the Main Street Parking Ramp, as well as giving parking utility coordinator Jim Flottmeyer the go-ahead to hire another company to seal the area. The city also took the opportunity to discuss pigeon removal efforts.

When Main Street Ramp was built, insulation was installed atop the walls surrounding the restaurant portion, which houses Dublin Square, John’s Bar and Lindy’s Subs and Salads.

“The pigeons have found their way through that, so over the last 20 years, it’s filled up with pigeon fun stuff and pigeons,” Flottmeyer said.

According to an estimate from Dirty Ducts Cleaning, a Madison-based company hired by the city to address the problem, the pigeon poo could cover an area of about 10,000 square feet.

The problem came to light with the heavy rainfall at the end of July, when 7 inches of rain fell in La Crosse County. The rain filled the area, washing some, but not all, of the feces out into the ramp behind the restaurants.

“It was all running out the water spouts into the ramp, and it caused some problems with those customers,” Flottmeyer said.

Prior to the clean-up, which will include people in hazmat suits removing the dry excrement and debris from the 4-foot crawlspace, as well as disinfecting the entire area, the city will need to seal the area to prevent the pigeons’ return. The work will be done at night to avoid disrupting the businesses in the ramp.

The funds for the removal will come from the parking utility’s operating budget, but La Crosse Assistant Chief of Police Rob Abraham said the department wanted to bring it to the board’s attention for two reasons.

“Obviously, from a budgetary standpoint, we didn’t expect to spend $40,000 to remove pigeon poop,” Abraham said.

The other reason was to talk about abatement. Abraham has been in touch with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which provides pigeon removal services, although the city would need to reimburse the department for its costs.

“If we don’t start thinning the herd, so to speak, in a pretty dramatic fashion, these prices and spending $40,000 to remove pigeon poop can start to add up pretty quickly,” Abraham said.

It’s difficult to tell exactly how many pigeons are downtown, according to Downtown Mainstreet Inc. executive director Robin Moses, but the pigeon population remains a significant one.

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Robin Moses mug

Moses

This month marks the second year of DMI’s pigeon-feed contraceptive program, which costs the organization $10,000 a year. While Moses said some people believe the numbers have gone down, the pigeons are still causing problems year-round.

“In the summer time they can feed in other areas, as the weather starts to get cooler, they come back to downtown because they can find nesting areas,” Moses said.

“I think we need to get more aggressive than we’ve even been so far,” she added.

Moses has been working with the parking utility to come up with a solution.

“If people are still creating areas for nesting or harboring pigeons inside buildings that may have a broken window, we’re still going to continue to see an issue,” Moses said. “It has to be approached in many different directions.”

There are multiple solutions the city can implement that would involve removing pigeons.

“They’re an invasive species in the U.S. They compete with other native birds to Wisconsin,” Abraham said. “That’s really what has to happen.”

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Jourdan Vian is a reporter and columnist covering local government and city issues for the La Crosse Tribune. You can contact her at 608-791-8218.

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