PARK MANOR — More than month after a fire destroyed two local businesses, debris remains on the property, and now residents and businesses are concerned about a possible rodent problem.
The commercial building at 375 E. 75th St. that housed a Dollar & Up and a Cricket Wireless store was destroyed by a Jan. 17 fire.
And while a fence has been put around the building, the burned debris remains, which includes canned goods, drinks and other household products.
There is "still food over there in that vacant lot. ... When it burned down they should have took everything away," said Michael Rutledge, 64, a clerk at Food Basket, a convenience store at 401 E. 75th St. across the street from the fire site. "Soon there will be rats running rampant around here."
Rutledge, who has lived in Park Manor for a year, accused the alderman of not doing his job.
"The alderman should have got on the city to make sure this mess got cleaned up. If this had happened in a white neighborhood we would not be having this conversation," he said.
But Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), whose ward includes the site, said he has reached out to city officials about getting the debris removed.
"At this point, I just want it cleaned up, whether it's by the city or the owner," Sawyer said. "I have calls in, and I am waiting to get an update on the matter."
Mimi Simon, a spokeswoman for the city's Buildings Department, said the city is not responsible for making sure that debris left by a fire is removed.
"It is the responsibility of the owner to work with their insurance company on site cleanup following a fire. Residents can contact 311 to report their concerns and the city will follow up and track response," Simon said.
Regardless, Simon said workers from the Streets and Sanitation Department plan to inspect the site Wednesday and put out rodent poison if necessary, she said.
This is not the first time Sawyer has dealt with complaints about a trash-filled lot.
In August, as Sawyer toured Englewood with Daniel Wentworth Elementary School Principal Dina Everage, Ald. Latasha Thomas (17th) and parents, the group discovered a vacant lot across the street from the school at 7039 S. Ada St. that was filled with trash.
Sawyer called the Streets and Sanitation Department, and the next day a city crew cleaned it up.
And in October a vacant home at 7047 S. Parnell Ave. had been empty so long residents said people started dumping trash in the backyard, which created a rodent problem.
But after Sawyer was alerted to the problem the lot was cleaned up the next day.
Residents said they are hoping Sawyer can work his "magic" again on the fire-gutted building site.
"I remember when his daddy was our alderman, and when he was mayor," said Nathan Burke, 75, a Park Manor resident for 42 years, referring to former Mayor Eugene Sawyer. "His dad always got the job done, and it sounds like his son is doing the same thing too."
Tawana Cook said not only is the fire site an eyesore, it's a safety hazard to the community, especially for those using the bus stop in front of the dilapidated building.
"My son goes to Dunbar [High School], and that's his bus stop when he is coming home, and I hate it. He could get bit by rats, and rats carry diseases," said Cook, 45, who lives in the 7500 block of South King Drive. "Once the weather starts to break, then we have to worry about children going over there playing."
On Tuesday, it was unclear whether the businesses dislocated by the fire would reopen.
Melinda Kelly, executive director of the Chatham Business Association, was unavailable for comment.
Longtime Park Manor resident Robert Turner said it is terrible that the debris has not been cleaned up yet.
"I am disappointed in how all of this was handled. It makes no sense to leave all that garbage there," said Turner, a resident for 38 years.
A day care center, Gifts From God, is four houses away from the fire site, and that has its owner Valerie Beck nervous.
"It's an ugly site, but I guess the city will clean it up once it gets warm. I don't know if they do cleanup in the winter, but the sooner it can be cleaned up the better," said Beck, 37.
Maurice Justin, 74, said he was optimistic the city eventually will clean up the site.
"I'm sure when the weather breaks the city will clean it up," he said. "I have lived in this neighborhood for 24 years and things have always gotten taken care of one way or another."