SANTA FE, N.M. — Gophers aren’t the only varmints doing damage to Santa Fe’s public property.
City government also has a lot of poop to deal with – pigeon poop, that is.
On Wednesday, the Santa Fe City Council approved spending $75,000 to eradicate pocket gophers from city parks, saying the holes they dig are a health and safety risk to people who people using the parks. Next month, the council will likely vote on spending another $52,000 to clean pigeon poop from the roof of the Genoveva Chavez Community Center.
A request to award a four-year contract to Keers Remediation Inc., of Albuquerque, to clean the mechanical roofs at the recreation center on a quarterly basis was approved by the city’s Public Works and Land Use Committee on Monday. It will be heard by the Finance Committee this coming Monday and is scheduled to come before the City Council on Oct. 10.
“There is a probably enough pigeon poop to form a small island,” said John Munoz, the city’s parks and recreation director. “Then hawks and other species of raptors hunt the pigeons, leaving partial carcasses on our roof. That debris needs to be removed on a timely basis.”
Munoz said pigeon contamination has been an ongoing problem at GCCC. And with more than 250,000 visitors to the community center each year, the city has a responsibility to ensure the safety and welfare of its patrons, as well as maintain city facilities that taxpayer dollars support.
“As a City and good stewards of property and assets, our intent is to also responsibly live in concert with nature,” he wrote in a text message to the Journal. “Citizens deserve a return on their investment. The expenditures are important to upkeep and to do preventative maintenance.
“At the same time our approach is that we take steps (to) complete that safely while protecting and doing our part to sustain the environment for future generations.”
Because of their innate ability to identify and locate, generations of pigeons have “literally genetically linked or stamped to our roof system,” he said.
A memo from Recreation Section Manager Jerry Schilling says the mechanical equipment on the roofs at GCCC creates an ideal environment for pigeons, providing heat, shelter and water.
“Once a population inhabits an area, they develop a homing instinct for this location, causing an infestation,” he wrote. “Both Genoveva Chavez staff and the Integrated Pest Manager for the City have tried unsuccessfully to eliminate this population. Because these efforts have failed, the roof collects a hazardous amount of pigeon-related detritus that threatens the health of the facilities (sic) patrons, as well as Facilities Maintenance staff working on these roofs.”
The service agreement with Keers states that the company will provide biohazard decontamination and waste disposal. The facility’s upper roof, lower ice rink roof and fitness/weight room roof will be mitigated and disinfected.
“A disinfect will be applied to all surfaces after the mitigation has been completed,” the agreement states. “Please keep in mind some surfaces maybe (sic) stained after the decontamination has been complete due to the acidic (sic) of the pigeon feces being there for a long period of time.”
Keers will also “remove, bag and dispose (of) the pigeon feces around and under the HVAC Units and Ducting,” it says. Only a low pressure washer and scrub brushes, and a simple green detergent and tap water are to be used in the decontamination process.
“Keers will not blast the roof tops with any high pressure power washers,” the agreement states. Leaky roofs have been an ongoing problem at the community center.
In a phone interview Wednesday, Munoz said that the city doesn’t have the same kind of problem with pigeons at other city buildings, at least not like this.
“It’s a large building with a large roof and the pigeons have made it into a landing strip,” he said, adding the roof area covered 177,000 square feet.
The city has taken other measures to try to keep the birds at bay, installing netting and spike strips, of sorts, about eight years ago. The protruding needles from the spike strips are intended to keep the pigeons off the roof, especially in areas above entrances where people coming in or out of the building would be at risk of being struck by droppings.
“The spikes were designed to discourage, not hurt, pigeons,” he said. “And poison or chemicals are not a viable solution.”
Munoz said that during the economic downturn from the Great Recession, a lot of building maintenance was deferred. “Now we’re in a position where we can reinvest in our services,” he said.
He mentioned that a bond issue supported by gross receipts tax revenue was also approved at Monday’s Public Works Committee meeting to provide $20 million for work at city facilities. More than 20 percent of the revenue – $4.3 million – would be allocated to GCCC. Another $2.5 million would go to repairs at the Salvador Perez Recreation Complex, and $700,000 would go toward repairs at Fort Marcy.
The proposed bond sale requires approval by the City Council only and won’t be placed on the ballot for voter consideration. If approved, gross receipts taxes would not increase, a city spokesman said.