NORTH ATTLEBORO — There won’t be a Pied Piper, but a community forum has been set up later this month to discuss solutions to the city’s ongoing rat problem.
The meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 16, in the Lower Conference Room of City Hall, “will give people an opportunity to come together” to explore solutions, City Manager Michael Borg said. .
Complaints about rodents started to increase a year ago.
In an article last June, The Sun Chronicle reported that the city’s health department had seen an increase in rat complaints and an increase in sewer rats in the city, citing health worker Sheri Miller- Bedau.
The problem has also spread to nearby towns.
Last September, Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux said his office had received “dozens of complaints” over the past few months, and health worker Jessica Horsman echoed him. “In all my years of experience, I have never seen the volume of calls and complaints that we have seen over the past few months,” she said at the time.
A post on the city’s health department website acknowledged a booming rat population in Attleboro and elsewhere, blaming warmer winters for a longer breeding season and rising rodents.
And this area is not the only one in the state.
The US Census Bureau ranks the Boston metro area second in the nation for rat sightings and 18.4% of residents have spotted one lately. The question has since arisen at the level of local authorities. Ann Marie Fleming, North Attleboro’s health director, told city councilors earlier this year that some of the problems stemmed from business closures caused by COVID-19 two years ago.
When restaurants closed during the pandemic, colonies of rats that fed on the leftovers from those businesses moved into residential neighborhoods, where they found birdseed and chicken feed. “They like the occasional egg, like all of us,” Fleming added.
Part of the solution, she said, is to make sure rodents don’t have a food source, such as a trash can that isn’t secure or trash bags left too early before picking up the trash day.
“If you leave bags with garbage outside, it will be an attraction,” she said. One solution is to buy a waste barrel to hold the bags.
The board of health has posted a series of rat control tips on the city’s website. They include recommendations for cleaning up debris, trapping animals, and sealing off areas where rats might enter a building.
Borg told councilors the city plans to replace the city-labeled bags it currently uses with barrels for collecting its solid waste once its current contract with Waste Management expires.
The problem escalated during a contentious meeting of the city’s board of health last month that left several residents complaining frustrated that the city could not take more immediate action.
Members of the board of health explained that the board has a limited budget and limited authority to travel to private properties where there may be an infestation.
Borg said the June 16 meeting will explore “how the city can help. Where does the city’s response start and where does the private owner’s start and where do we go to collaborate? »
Borg says representatives from the health department and the city’s animal control officer will be present at the community forum.
“We have a few resources that we can make available,” he says. “We will present them at the meeting.”