Council Says City’s Rat Response Not Enough

On Monday, Sept. 23, the Council heard from the Assistant City Solicitor Keith Slattery regarding the City’s approach to managing the rodent problem in Everett. By and large, councilors were disappointed with the response and urged the City to do more.

Council first raised the issue at their meeting on September 3, where they called for a representative of the City to appear at their next meeting to provide an update on rodent control initiatives.

Slattery said that in the wake of complaints to the Inspectional Services Department from residents on Devine, Ferry, Irving and Summer streets, the City had utilized a seasonal information campaign to educate the public. This included passing out fliers emphasizing the importance of properly storing garbage outdoors, sealing bins, and managing overgrowth that could lead to nesting. The Assistant City Solicitor reported that complaint calls have since decreased.

However, councilors expressed that the problem was larger in scope than just the streets mentioned and that it warranted a citywide strategy. Councilor Wayne Matewsky cited Bolster, Elm, Estes, George and Paris streets specifically, saying a neighbor on George Street “couldn’t let his grandchild into the yard to play” for fear of a rat encounter.

Councilor Michael McLaughlin added that he has received calls from residents on the hills opposite the hospital, like Alpine, Richdale and Rosedale with “concerns of increase in rodent activity over the last few months.”

“It is something that we’ve all received calls on,” echoed Councilor Fred Capone.

Councilors also suggested that managing the rodent problem at the level of residential garbage disposal wasn’t getting to the root of the problem.

“This is a problem that giving out fliers to residents isn’t solving,” said Councilor Peter Napolitano. “Keeping barrels closed is not going to do a thing. We’re not doing anything physically to curb the rodent population.”

“In 62 years of living in the city, I’ve only seen an excess of rats in the past four years,” he continued. “The City is not fixing this problem.”

One possible explanation for the rise in rodents is the increase in new construction projects in Everett over the past half-decade. Digging into the earth displaces underground rodent populations, forcing them to the surface.

Slattery mentioned the ordinance proposed by Councilor John McKinnon that requires all contractors to set rat traps around any new construction sites. However, councilors wondered what the oversight process was to ensure that developers were complying with the ordinance. They also suggested that the City should take on baiting and not leave it up to contractors.

“We have to do something,” said Councilwoman Rosa DiFlorio. “We have to get rats under control and then we have to educate people what to do. Are we going to wait until a child gets bit before we move on it?”

The Councilwoman suggested transferring money into a special department to take on the situation.

Slattery suggested that Council speak to the Everett Board of Health about initiating a public eradication effort and to research rodent control options in neighboring urban areas.

“Based on the calls we’re getting, the common remedies are effective right now,” he said. “You’re not going to see a [total] absence of rats.”

Councilor Capone said that the City could come up with some ways to curb the rodent population that would not cost the city money, such as putting more pressure and oversight on construction sites and increasing dumpster pickups.

Overflowing dumpsters are known to attract rodents. Residents in Rome, Italy, are currently dealing with a dumpster overflow crisis, which has led to rats invading people’s homes.

The Council asked the Assistant City Solicitor to return at the second meeting in November with a report outlining the City’s options for getting to the root of the rodent problem.

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