“The rat problem is everywhere.”
That was the message that city councilors and residents heard from David Palumbo, the new Director of the Inspectional Services Department (ISD), at the City Council meeting on Monday night.
The recent outbreak of rats running wild on Beacon Street prompted councilors to seek some answers and possible solutions.
The first step in the rat battle, all agreed, is educating the public about the problem and the role that each citizen must play to combat it.
Palumbo said that his department is now compiling a pamphlet in several languages about the “Do’s and Don’ts” for residents. He said that the elimination of sources of food for rats is the first and best advice for residents.
In addition to garbage left out for collection only in bags, which are an open invitation for rats, food from bird feeders that falls on the ground is another easy food source for rats, as well as animal waste that is not picked up and put into a trash barrel.
Ward 2 Councilor Stephanie Martins made the observation that there are more coyotes in her district, which could be an indication of a large rat population. Martins also noted, “Renters do not know that they can get added barrels from the city,” to safely store rubbish until collection day, although Councilor Irene Cardillo pointed out there is a cost to purchasing extra barrels.
Ward 3 Councilor Darren Costa noted that “education is huge,” to solving the problem. “If barrels are chewed through, throw them away,” he said, while reminding residents that rats can jump up to four feet.
“Be leery of using poison,” Palumbo said, “and talk to experts.”
Palumbo noted that residents should call 311 if they see a rat and the ISD will come out to take a look.
Recently, a neighborhood council in East Boston met with their ISD Department about their rat problem. They were told that new construction disturbs rats’ nests and causes the rats to be more active.
It also was pointed out that the recent drought has also forced rats to look for water sources and in some cases, they have been going into peoples’ homes.
Ward 6 Councilor Alfred Lattanzi perhaps had the best advice to residents and businesses: “Be proactive,” he said.
Senior Meals Delivery
Rob Moreschi, the city’s Chief Procurement Officer, appeared before the council to explain the bidding process for the Senior Meals delivery program.
Councilor Stephanie Smith was concerned “how it is funded,” and whether the program is sustainable over the long term.
Moreschi noted that there are only two or three local food establishments that have bid on the contract, which calls for serving between 475 to 500 meals per day that must be prepared and delivered to seniors starting at 10:30 a.m. He said that many restaurants cannot handle that volume.
Erin Deveney, Mayor Carlo DeMaria’s Chief of Staff, noted that at first the program was funded by funds from The Cares Act, and now is using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
Dale Palma, Director of the Senior Center, works with seniors to put together the meal plan. He also has a working relationship with the Cambridge Health Alliance and the Mystic Valley Elder Services for the meals.
Recently, a survey was sent to the 575 seniors who currently are receiving the meals to gauge their interest in continuing to receive the meals, and only 271 who replied said they wish to continue with the program.
However, Deveney noted that when the ARPA funds that the city currently is utilizing are gone, the program could be discontinued.
Councilor Martins echoed Smith’s point about the funding, saying, “We need other sources of funding.”
More Liquor Licenses
Councilor Lattanzi asked his colleagues for a submission of a Special Act to the Massachusetts General Court for additional alcoholic beverage licenses. Presently, Everett has about 45 liquor licenses of different types and Lattanzi is seeking five more restaurant, one more beer and wine, and two more liquor store licenses.
Lattanzi based his request on future development in the city and that new businesses will require liquor licenses.
Ward 3 Councilor Costa noted that the additional licenses will have a community impact.
Lattanzi said that any business can apply and the licenses will be given out by the Licensing Board.
“There will be a need,” Councilor-at-Large Michael Marchese added.
The future of the Pope John XXIII High School site, whether as a potential new middle school or torn down for affordable housing, is moving closer to a resolution.
Superintendent Priya Tahiliani appeared before the council again and told councilors of some of the options for the building that were presented at last week’s School Committee meeting.
In the past week, several councilors had toured both the Pope John site and other Everett schools to view the former school building and to see the overcrowding situation first-hand.
“The higher you go, the messier it gets,” Lattanzi said, referring to the Pope John building. He said he was hopeful, but cautious, that the $30 to $40 million that Tahiliani has projected to bring the Pope John School up to code would be enough.
Councilor Costa queried about reimbursements from the state for the repairs that need to be done.
“It’s too late for the state’s accelerated-repair program,” Tahiliani said, but added, “This would be a great use of the ARPA funds,” that still sit in the city’s coffers.
Costa also said that the 10 modular units that are being discussed for the George Keverian School could be a security risk, inasmuch as each unit would have its own entrance.
“I am not waiting any longer, “ Smith told her colleagues. Smith and the other councilors are seeking the costs for upgrading the Pope John to meet current state requirements.
The urgency being expressed by the council stems from the overcrowding at local schools that has reached a breaking point. Parents, residents, and city officials are seeking a quick solution, since opening a state-funded new high school would be almost a decade away.
Tahiliani mentioned that turning the Pope John into a school for grades 7 and 8 would relieve the overcrowding at all of the elementary schools, but would not alleviate the overcrowding at the high school.
The Council voted to have a joint convention with the School Committee in the City Council Chambers next Tuesday at 6 p.m. to discuss school overcrowding and possible solutions.