State health building in Central Austin infested by hundreds of rats


The headquarters of the state’s health agency is overrun with several hundred rats, officials said.

The news of the infestation, which has been an issue since late summer, was first reported by the Texas Tribune on Wednesday.

Officials with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which, among other things ensures state-regulated buildings are sanitary and pest-free, have signed off on spending $60,000 for Orkin to come and trap the vermin crawling around the Brown-Heatly building on North Lamar Boulevard near West 51st Street. The state facilities commission said renovation and construction that has been going on at the building contributed to the invasion, according to the Tribune.

An employee saw “a rat come down the wall and hide behind a filing cabinet. It could not be located. There are also droppings,” according to an internal email obtained by the American-Statesman. Lesley French, an associate commissioner, responded in another email: “This is really unsettling the staff.”

The facilities commission typically handles pest problems but the agency has dug into its repair and maintenance budget to eradicate the rodents.

“While we have been trapping and working with the Texas Facilities Commission, we wanted to take the extra step and hire a contractor to address the situation before winter,” health agency spokeswoman Christine Mann said.

Employees — 1,200 of them work in the building — are being asked to keep their work space clean by tossing food, storing food in the refrigerator or in a sealed container and cleaning up soiled dishes by the end of the day.

Officials are offering anonymity to employees who snitch on their coworkers for noncompliance.



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