Rooting out the rats in Newbury | Merrimack Valley | – Eagle-Tribune

Recommended by Dikshit Aryal, Published on September 15th, 2020

NEWBURY The first step in resolving an ongoing rodent infestation on Morgan and Graham avenues is identifying the source and extent of the problem, town officials say.

An emergency meeting was called in acknowledgement of the seriousness of the health issue, Town Administrator Tracy Blaisexplained at the start of the session.

Selectboard member Mike Doyle who lives on Morgan Avenue could not attend because the virtual meeting was held at a time when he had to work. All other members of the board were present, along with Board of Health Chairman Steve Fram and Health Agent Deb Rogers, among others.

Blais was first made aware of the problem when Doyle reported rat sightings around his property, located directly across the street from the site where a new police station is under construction.

Rogers, the health agent, investigated, but found no obvious source for the rodents. The Newbury Butchery and a goat farm on the street, which take adequate pest control measures, had no issues with rats, she reported.

Essex Pest Control was hired to treat town facilities in the area. With no further complaints through the spring, town officials assumed the problem was solved.

But toward the end of July, Doyle reported the number of rat sightings was increasing. He wanted the town to cover exterminator costs for the affected homes because he and others concluded the rat infestation was the result of the police construction project.

When the Health Department inspected the area and conducted interviews, it found no obvious public health code violations. Homeowners were encouraged to eliminate food, water and shelter enticements for the rats and, if necessary, hire a private exterminator.

In a letter to selectmen dated Sept. 2, Alan and Holly Pritchard describe how rats began appearing in their yard shortly after ground was broken for the new police station. The 42-year residents never had any problems with rats before.

Despite following Board of Health recommendations, the problem continues, they wrote the rats are running in the streets from one drive to the other all day long.

We trapped and killed nine rats in our back yard last weekend alone, they wrote.

That same day, Giovanna Chaisson of Graham Avenue reportedseeing rats in her yard for the pastthree months.

No sanitary code violations were observed, but road construction was underway on her street as well as High Road and South Pond Street, the Health Department noted when following up on Chaissons complaint. Several others in the neighborhood also called the town to report seeing rats.

For the Pritchards, the issue hascontinued for nine months. With cold weather approaching, the rats will move indoors, they fear, writing, We are exhausted senior citizens living in a very stressed neighborhood.

Should the rats bite a child, you can bet this is going to be a lawsuit against the town, wrote Leslie Doyle, a 27-year Morgan Avenue resident who is married to Mike Doyle. Her neighbor hadseven rats in his yard and her golden retriever and other dogs have killed a few too. Shes frustrated by what she feels is a lack of timely response from town officials.

We live in an affluent town but rats are apparently not an important health and safety issue, she wrote.

Fram described the rodents as Norway rats, weighingabout 1 pound and 16 inches long. TheBoard of Health voted on Aug. 18 to order the town to address the problem. The Selectboard, however, still needed to authorize the expense.

If we caused it from the construction, then we should take care of the solution, Fram insisted.

State health officials told Rogers its important that the entire neighborhood participate in eliminating the problem by removing debris and bird feeders, and covering trash cans and other potential food, water or shelter areas. She recommended the town hire a professional exterminator to survey the neighborhood and report back to the health board.

Once we have this report, the Board of Health can order the properties to take corrective actions, she said.

Noting that rats spread disease, Selectboard member Gerry Heavey urged the town to move expeditiously.

We really need to help this neighborhood ... we need to help these folks, she said.

Town counsel Lisa Mead advised that the town is legally allowed to spend taxpayer money todetermine the infestations source.

The town must address those issues on its properties; and property owners are responsible for sources on their own properties. Property owners must submit a written claim if they believe the town caused the problems and therefore should pay for the fix, Mead said.

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Excerpt from:
Rooting out the rats in Newbury | Merrimack Valley | - Eagle-Tribune

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