By DANIEL KITTREDGE Rats are back in the spotlight. Recent media attention surrounding a rodent problem near Cranston Stadium - a "pretty deplorable localized condition," as one top city official describes it - has led to an enforcement push, including a
Rats are back in the spotlight.
Recent media attention surrounding a rodent problem near Cranston Stadium – a “pretty deplorable localized condition,” as one top city official describes it – has led to an enforcement push, including a Municipal Court summons for one resident and plans to call in an exterminator.
Meanwhile, members of the administration and City Council plan to review, and propose changes to, the city’s ordinances in an effort to enhance local government’s ability to respond.
“It’s receiving the No. 1 focus of the administration, actually, at this point, and we’re going to continue with that,” Anthony Moretti, chief of staff to Mayor Ken Hopkins, told council members on Monday.
“I think that residents see that we are addressing the issue,” Ward 3 Councilman John Donegan said Tuesday morning.
As a quick online search indicates, problems with rodents are far from new in Cranston. Periodically over the years, the critters have created issues in particular neighborhoods or sections of the city.
Enhanced rodent control was a key part of the pitch when the city adopted its automated trash and recycling pickup system, and the accompanying bins, in 2014. And in 2019, the City Council adopted an ordinance amendment aimed at providing additional latitude to the city’s Department of Public Works for rodent-related code enforcement.
The latest episode stems from a recent WJAR report regarding a situation on Caporal Street. Its headline? “Rats crawl all over Cranston neighborhood.”
Residents told the station that rodents had been causing damage throughout the area, chewing through car wiring, digging holes and otherwise creating a sense of fear and unease. One resident of Caporal Street was identified by others as having fueled the problem by feeding animals, including cats and pigeons, outside her home, creating a situation ripe for rodents to flourish.
Those complaints led to a Municipal Court summons for Melissa Davis, 55, who is charged with violating the city’s ordinance that prohibits residents from feeding wildlife. She has since appeared for arraignment and entered a plea of not guilty.
During Monday’s meeting of the City Council, Moretti provided an update on the administration’s response to the Caporal Street situation. He was the official to describe the conditions there as “pretty deplorable.”
Moretti said the mayor’s administration is working on “various fronts” and “doing everything possible legally in this particular case.” Others directly involved in the response, he said, are Public Works Director Ken Mason, Chief of Police Col. Michael Winquist, Director of Building Inspection David Rodio and City Solicitor Christopher Millea.
A consent agreement is being sought to allow access for the city, or its representatives, onto the property in question, and plans are in place to hire an extermination company. Moretti said during initial consultation with one company, it was indicated that the solving the problem will take time.
“This problem won’t be fixed certainly in the short term … It’s well beyond that, this situation,” he said. The timeframe for resolution, he said, is likely “several months.”
Moretti said through the Police Department, the city issued a “red alert” – a message sent to cell phones and landlines – for residents within a two-mile radius of Caporal Street to inform them of the issue and the city’s response. He said a letter to neighbors in the area is also being drafted.
Additionally, Moretti said the mayor has directed Millea to take a “comprehensive look” at the city’s existing ordinances related to the situation to “see where there’s any holes.”
The Caporal Street episode has already spurred some legislative action. Citywide Councilwoman Nicole Renzulli and Donegan have cosponsored an amendment to the city’s rodent control ordinance, which would add the following language:
“All complaints made to the department of public works concerning any alleged violations of this chapter whether written, verbal, or in any other medium so provided to the department of public works, whether by a named or anonymous party, shall be investigated. The director of public works shall make a record of such complaints when received, the findings of the investigation and the final disposition of the complaint.”
Donegan said the intent of the new language is that “as [rodent] complaints come in from constituents and residents … some sort of file be created.”
“It’s very similar to what we already have on the books for building code violations,” he said, describing the wording as “almost pulled directly 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 produced some goodwill among officials in a year that has at times seen tensions flare, particularly between the council and the mayor.
Moretti on Monday thanked Donegan for sharing information regarding the Caporal Street situation, including photos and complaints from constituents, with the administration.
Donegan on Tuesday applauded Hopkins and Moretti for being “tremendously responsive and helpful,” saying their efforts are “greatly appreciated.”
Donegan also sought to put the rodent issue in context, particularly when it comes to the neighborhood in which he lives.
“The rodent long predates anyone allegedly feeding animals in the Stadium neighborhood … Anyone in the neighborhood would tell you that,” he said.
He added: “It’s not just a quality of life issue, it’s a health issue, it’s a health concern. And we don’t want anything unfortunate to happen … At the end of the day, be good neighbors. Use good judgment.”
The city’s rodent control official can be reached by calling (401) 461-1000, ext. 3175. Full contact information for city officials, as well as a guide for rodent prevention, can be found via the city’s website, cranstonri.gov.