Ledge Light team continuing door-to-door rat survey in Pawcatuck

Ledge Light team continuing door-to-door rat survey in Pawcatuck

The Westerly Sun

STONINGTON — Ledge Light Health District’s team of four sanitarians will be back on the job today, taking a door-to-door survey to determine the whereabouts of rats in the Pawcatuck area.

Since Monday, team members have visited 207 homes as part of the town’s comprehensive approach to rat abatement.

Thursday was designated a day off so that the collected data could be aggregated on a map and analyzed, and because of the hot, humid weather, First Selectman Rob Simmons said in an email Wednesday.

Led by sanitarian Danielle Holmes, the survey team of sanitarian Charlene Swink, environmental technician Patti Myers, and senior sanitarian Kimberly White will cover Birdland, the Campbell grain building site on Coggswell Street, the Yardney building on Mechanic Street, and the Moss Street Extension, and other sites.

After complaints to police in April, the rat population increase in the area was brought to light in May. A house on Milan Terrace was found to be infested with rats, partly because one of the residents was feeding the animals, and also because of site conditions favorable to rats, such as debris, bird feeders and standing water.

Since then, the homeowner, Terrance Holbrook, has worked to clean up the property. Holbrook paid for abatement services from Griggs and Browne, a pest control company from Waterford, which has removed about 70 since June. (It was previously incorrectly reported that the town had paid for pest control services on Holbrook’s property.)

“The Town of Stonington and Ledge Light Health District did not pay for the extermination services or removal of debris at 1 Milan Terrace,” Simmons wrote in a statement on July 14. “The cost of these services was paid for by the property owner once it was determined he had the ability to pay.”

On June 9, Ryan McCammon, supervisor of environmental health for the Ledge Light Health District, and Simmons held a public meeting to go over preventive and abatement measures since the rats were spreading into neighborhoods surrounding Milan Terrace. McCammon also went door-to-door on June 12, disseminating abatement information in the area of Milan Terrace, Frank and Swan Streets.

After sightings of rats were reported on July 10 in the Moss, Courtland, and William Streets area, the town held meetings with members of the Solid Waste Department, Public Works Department, the Pawcatuck Fire Department, Human Services Department, Ledge Light, and Griggs & Browne to formulate a plan for collecting data on the infestations.

In addition to the Ledge Light survey, the town has taken action by adding another Crandall garbage hauler truck for Pawcatuck for August to avoid compaction spillage.

“Furthermore, Crandall has sent his trucks over for inspection and replacement of seals to again reduce the chance of spillage,” Simmons said. “These costs will be determined later and shared between Crandall and the Town of Stonington.”

Chicken coops in the area have also become an issue because they can create a food source for rats.

Three coops have been identified in the Pawcatuck area and one was issued a citation for violating a 2013 ordinance that allows a maximum of 10 chickens on a 20,000-square-foot or larger lot. The property in question has eight chickens on a 18,000 square foot lot.

Simmons said he was in the process of reviewing the ordinance.

“When a prior administration approved the Keeping of Hens in November 2013, the conditions were that it would be done in a manner ‘which preserves the quality of life of the surrounding neighborhood,’” he said. “I seriously question whether this is the case and have asked the director of planning to review the records of that decision, which we may want to revisit at the next meeting of the Board of Selectmen.”

The amendment to the town’s zoning regulations to allow the keeping of chickens in residential zones was unanimously approved on Nov. 19, 2013 by the Planning and Zoning Commission and went into effect on Dec. 9, 2013.

Commission members wrote the new rules themselves after rejecting an earlier version proposed by resident Peg Moran on behalf of a group called Chicken Lovers Urge Change — CLUC*K.

The minimum lot size of 20,000 square feet meant that 60 percent of the town’s properties would be eligible to keep chickens. In the past, chickens were prohibited on residential lots smaller than three acres, or nearly 131,000 square feet.

Simmons said Gail Shea, a former member of the Charter Revision Commission, “spoke out against keeping hens in a residential neighborhood” and Joe Prue, former chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission, “submitted a statement of opposition.”

“But the Commission still voted in favor,” Simmons said.



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