Residents: Covered trash totes not enough to fix rat problem

Residents: Covered trash totes not enough to fix rat problem

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Town officials agreed with residents who declared at a Sept. 4 meeting that simply acquiring new covered trash totes this fall won’t be enough to eradicate North Providence’s rat problem.

The years-long issue isn’t going away, residents told Town Council members, and is being made worse as rats are driven from their homes due to extensive new construction across town.

Lori Bradley, of Vincent Avenue, presented photos of injuries her dog sustained from a daytime rat attack, as well as copies of the veterinary bills.

Jennifer Morgan, of 21 Tophill Road, also in Marieville, said the rat problem in that neighborhood “seems to be getting worse” by the day.

“It’s just ongoing, and we’re fed up with it,” she said.

Complaints over the past two years have largely be in Lymansville, on the opposite end of town from where Morgan and Bradley live.

Morgan said she found dead rats in her pool last year, leading her to not even open the pool this year.

Residents and town officials agreed that simply adding the totes won’t be enough. There is still an ordinance in town that says if residents’ barrels are full, they can place a bag on its own at the curb, an illustration that the ordinances need to be revamped in conjunction with the tote purchase.

Councilor Ken Amoriggi was one of those who emphasized the need to strengthen the town’s ordinance and increase penalties for violators. The council sent the matter to its ordinance subcommittee for further consideration, the third time that’s happened over the past two years with no significant changes coming out of the committee.

Also an ongoing issue, everyone agreed, is that businesses aren’t emptying dumpsters often enough and the dumpsters are being left open.

The Breeze reported last week that the town will acquire the totes through an extension with sanitation provider MTG at no additional cost to the town, but with a five-year extension for the company.

Building Official Mike Carnevale said there are almost always three people on the road now citing offenders. He said town employees respond to every complaint, but often show up to a complaint about a dumpster still being full only to find that it’s since been emptied after the call came in.

“If it’s empty, how do I (cite a violation for) that person?” he said.

Some residents continue to take little care in enclosing their trash, and many are leaving items by the side of the road or in their yards with no care for their neighbors, said Carnevale, adding that he could work 24 hours each day and still have more work to do.

“If everybody’s not going to help themselves, it’s not going to happen,” he said.

The town now has three people working to cite violators, said Carnevale, and they frequently take people to municipal court.

Councilors asked Carnevale what the process is for getting a mattress picked up, and he responded that residents need to call Recycling Coordinator Bob Nascimento and pay the $15 to schedule a pickup. Many people are throwing mattresses on the side of the road or next to a dumpster because they don’t want to pay the $50 to bring it to the Central Landfill in Johnston, he said.

Councilors Manny Giusti and Ray DeStefanis suggested fining the homeowner instead of tenants when such items are left, since tenants are often long gone once mattresses and other items are discovered.

“They’re the ones we’ve got to hold more responsible,” said Giusti.

Mayor Charles Lombardi said the addition of totes is another step to getting the town cleaned up, and the addition of enforcement staff is also helping.

“The only way you get people’s attention is if you stick your hand in their pocket,” said the mayor.

Anthony Tudino, of A & D Pest Control, said cleanliness and rat abatement really comes down to a combined effort of the town property owners.

Morgan and others questioned how it’s one property owner’s responsibility to pay thousands of dollars for rat traps if their neighbor is the one who’s leaving out trash and attracting rodents.

“I just feel the town needs to do a little more,” she said, citing other communities that offer traps to residents in impacted areas.

Amoriggi emphasized the need for a broader public information campaign on what steps residents can take to avoid attracting rodents, saying some people in town seem to have innocent intentions when they commit violations, simply not understanding the impact of what they’re doing or knowing what’s allowed.

Giusti and Councilor Ray DeStefanis said he thinks town officials are sometimes sending mixed messages about the importance of cleanliness when they skip over picking up one item because no one has called to have it properly taken away. They suggested it might be better to simply pick up the items and then bill the homeowner.

DeStefanis later said he’s received numerous calls over the last four years from residents who are trying to keep good care of their own properties but see discarded mattresses and other items left out next door. Renters often don’t care enough to have them disposed of properly, he said, and residents then call to ask why they’re seeing public work trucks repeatedly driving by without employees stopping to pick up the mess.

DeStefanis said Lombardi made a good point that residents might not know about extenuating circumstances, such as if a DPW truck is full of asphalt and can’t fit the items.

By simply picking up the items when they’re left and then billing the homeowners, officials ensure a cleaner town, said DeStefanis. If no one pays the bill, the town can then place a lien on the targeted property.