Frustration is mounting as both residents and civic leaders share a perception that no progress is being made in the battle of rodent infestation in the city. ~Photo by Harry Kane

Frustration is mounting as both residents and civic leaders share a perception that no progress is being made in the battle of rodent infestation in the city. – Photo by Harry Kane

By Harry Kane

Heat is building on guilt-ridden aldermen as the latest wave of rodent sightings has stirred resentment among residents in the City of Somerville. Rodents have been running rampant in East Somerville and in other areas of the city. The solution is nowhere in sight.

Aldermen agree that stringent regulations will be necessary to prevent rodents from growing in numbers. Just last week the Public Health and Safety Committee reported 22 new rodent-related items.

A rodent task force has yet to be set-up, but there is unanimous agreement among aldermen that a new strategy to exterminate the rodents must take form.

Board of Alderman President William A. White, Jr. said that a working group within the administration is searching for a solution, but that a task force would be better. “All you need is one problem property to cause issues for residents in the area,” said Alderman White. “You can have one hundred to two hundred people affected by one piece of property.”

Apparently, there is new computer software in the final stages of development that will help to combat the rodents. The software will monitor the problem properties and red flag them. A database of rodent-related incidents could help the Department of Inspectional Services find the hotspots in the city.

But the new software would not be an end-all fix to the problem, according to Ward 4 Alderman Tony Lafuente. “Aside from software and computers we need health inspectors,” he said. “The computer system and software is not the solution here. We need bodies on the ground.”

During the Sept. 26 alderman meeting Alderman Lafuente asked for the Superintendent of Inspectional Services, Goran Smiljic, to address the Board with new strategies for exterminating the rodents.

The traditional methods of baiting and starving the rodents and taking their water source away has failed. Smiljic, who became the new Inspectional Services Director earlier this year is hoping the new computer program will help.

Much of the problem stems from construction projects that continue as Somerville builds new developments and residents rehab houses. Trash dumpsters at construction sites and at homes are sources of water and food for rodents.

At 15 to 18 months old, rats average eight to 10 young per litter. They average five to six litters per year, reported Lafuente, during the meeting. In one year, one pair of rats will produce 50 to 70 offspring that will reach maturity and bear young.

Lafuente explained that all the Alderman continue to receive non-stop emails. He received an email from someone so distraught about the rats in her backyard that the resident has decided to pay $80 a month to bait her property. Other residents are doing the same.

The city’s baiting program has not stopped the rodent epidemic. This is because the baiting is not being done across the entire city simultaneously, said Alderman Lafuente who was relaying what the exterminator who baited the woman’s home had said to him.  This across the board baiting program would be a much larger operation, but one that needs to be started, according to the Alderman.

Alderman at Large Dennis Sullivan recalled the last budget meeting when aldermen talked about installing a “Rodent Czar” to solve the rat conundrum. He says he was shocked at what he saw while driving around on Election Day near Franklin Street in East Somerville.

“Right in the middle of the street was a dead rat,” Alderman Sullivan said. He concluded that the rat had been hit by a car. “This is an epidemic. We keep talking about it. We keep spinning our wheels. But nothing seems to be happening.”

Despite Somerville’s efforts to control rodent infestation with trash storage modifications, continuous baiting and even inviting rat expert Dr. Robert Corrigan from New York, there has been little success. “It doesn’t seem to be working. It seems to be getting worse and worse,” Alderman Sullivan said.

Alderman Sullivan wants a comprehensive plan to address the rodent infestation. He’s asking that the “right person” be hired, who can find the source of the rats and put a stop to the problem plaguing the people of Somerville.


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