Rat control ‘No. 1 focus ”, say the managers
By DANIEL A. KITTREDGE
Rats are back in the spotlight.
Recent media attention around a rodent problem near Cranston Stadium – a “fairly deplorable localized condition,” as one senior city official describes it – has led to enforcement action, including a summons to the municipal court for a resident and plans to call in an exterminator.
Meanwhile, administration and city council members plan to review and propose changes to city ordinances with the aim of improving the local government‘s response capacity.
“In fact, he’s getting the # 1 administration priority at this point, and we’ll continue with that,” Anthony Moretti, Chief of Staff to Mayor Ken Hopkins, told council members on Monday.
“I think the residents see that we are addressing the problem,” Ward 3 Councilor John Donegan said Tuesday morning.
As a quick online search indicates, rodent problems are far from new to Cranston. Periodically over the years, the creatures have created problems in particular neighborhoods or sections of the city.
Improving rodent control was a key part of the field when the city adopted its automated waste and recycling collection system, and accompanying bins, in 2014. And in 2019, the city council passed an amendment to the ordinance to give additional latitude to the city department. of Public Works for the application of the code relating to rodents.
The last episode comes from a recent WJAR report regarding a situation on Caporal Street. His title ? “Rats are crawling all over the Cranston neighborhood.”
Residents told the station that rodents had caused havoc throughout the area, chewing on car wiring, digging holes and otherwise creating feelings of fear and unease. A resident of Caporal Street has been identified by others as having fueled the problem by feeding animals, including cats and pigeons, outside her home, creating a situation for rodents to thrive.
The complaints led to a summons to city court for Melissa Davis, 55, who is accused of violating the city’s ordinance that prohibits residents from feeding wildlife. She has since appeared on arraignment and has pleaded not guilty.
At Monday’s city council meeting, Moretti provided an update on the administration’s response to the situation on Caporal Street. He was the official to describe the conditions there as “quite deplorable”.
Moretti said the mayor’s administration was working on “several fronts” and “is doing everything it can legally in this particular case.” Others directly involved in the response, he said, are Director of Public Works Ken Mason, Chief of Police, Col. Michael Winquist, Director of Building Inspection David Rodio and City Counsel. Christopher Millea.
A consent agreement is sought to allow access by the city, or its representatives, to the property in question, and plans are in place to hire an extermination company. Moretti said during the initial consultation with a company that it was indicated that resolving the issue will take time.
“This problem will certainly not be resolved in the short term… It is way beyond that, this situation,” he said. The timeframe for resolution, he said, is probably “several months”.
Moretti said through the police department that the town had issued a “red alert” – a message sent to cellphones and landlines – to residents within a three-kilometer radius of Caporal Street to notify them of the problem and city response. He said a letter to neighbors in the region was also being drafted.
Additionally, Moretti said the mayor had asked Millea to take a “full review” of the city’s existing ordinances related to the situation to “see where there are holes”.
The Corporal Street episode has already spurred legislative action. City Councilor Nicole Renzulli and Donegan co-sponsored an amendment to the city’s rodent control ordinance, which would add the following wording:
“All complaints made to the Department of Public Works regarding any alleged violation of this Chapter, whether written, oral or by any other means so provided to the Department of Public Works, whether by a named or anonymous party, will under investigation. The director of public works records these complaints when they are received, the conclusions of the investigation and the final settlement of the complaint.
Donegan stated that the intention of the new language is that “as [rodent] complaints come in from voters and residents … some sort of file is created.
“It’s very similar to what we already have on the books for building code violations,” he said, describing the wording as “almost directly taken from existing city code in other areas. “.
Donegan said he and Renzulli plan to meet with the administration in July to discuss the proposed amendment and the rodent control effort more broadly.
The rodent issue has generated some goodwill among officials in a year that has at times seen tensions flare up, especially between council and the mayor.
Moretti thanked Donegan on Monday for sharing information with the administration regarding the Caporal Street situation, including photos and voter complaints.
Donegan applauded Hopkins and Moretti on Tuesday for being “extremely responsive and helpful,” saying their efforts are “greatly appreciated.”
Donegan has also sought to put the rodent problem in context, particularly with regard to the neighborhood in which he lives.
“The rodent is way older than anyone who fed animals in the stadium area… Anyone in the area would tell you,” he said.
He added, “It’s not just a quality of life issue, it’s a health issue, it’s a health issue. And we don’t want anything unfortunate to happen… At the end of the day, be good neighbors. Use common sense.
The City Rodent Control Officer can be reached by calling (401) 461-1000, ext. 3175. Full contact details for city officials, as well as a rodent prevention guide, are available on the city’s website, cranstonri.gov.