By Aaron Keebaugh
At a meeting of the Legislative Affairs Subcommittee Monday night, city councillors addressed two new ordinances which, if passed by the full council later this month, will institute some big changes in the city.
The first is the proposed rodent control ordinance, which Public Health Director Nick Catinazzo and other city officials hope will bring the growing rodent problem under control.
Councillors heard preliminary arguments for the proposal during a public hearing at last week’s full council meeting. They agreed that the proposed rodent control ordinance is both a health and safety issue for the city. There were no opponents to speak against the proposal.
This week, Councillor-at-Large John Correggio and Ward 6 Councillor Charles Patch said that such an ordinance is “badly needed.”
But Ward 5 Councillor John Powers questioned Catinazzo about rodents that appear on the streets. Forty years ago the city employed a rat exterminator and, in addition, hired the services of A-1 Pest Control, he said. “What do we have now?” inquired Powers.
Catinazzo replied that the DPW, which will be trained to deal with rodent control (as required under new federal regulations), will answer those calls. The most important aspect of rodent control, he added, is to locate the source of rat infestation.
City officials are still ironing out the details. “We’re still working on who does the tracking and who does the baiting…right now,” Catinazzo said.
Since news of the proposed ordinance began circulating, several restaurant owners in the city have complained about the $50 dumpster fee, Councillor-at-Large Anthony Zambuto said. “They pay the highest taxes and water and sewer rates in the city,” he told Catinazzo, adding, “I didn’t have a good answer for them” when the restaurant owners questioned him about the proposal.
Catinazzo answered that he understood the complaints, but he stressed the need to cut off the easiest food source—full and overflowing dumpsters—for the rats. Some restaurant dumpsters are “deplorable,” Catinazzo added.
He added that Revere has never charged for dumpsters. The new ordinance would bring Revere in line with Boston’s rat control ordinance, which also requires that dumpsters be kept clean. Revere’s proposed ordinance requires that dumpsters be cleaned three times per year and that the owners keep records on file for city inspection.
Zambuto said he was concerned that the fee would penalize businesses that already keep their dumpsters clean, although he added that he would like to see strict enforcement on dumpsters with “crap flowing over.”
Money generated from the fees on the roughly 300 dumpsters in the city would be used for baiting for rats in the problematic areas around the city, Catinazzo said. He estimated those fees would generate about $15,000 per year and be placed in a revolving account.
“That doesn’t help the restaurant owner, Zambuto said. The EPA/MWRA consent decree, which requires the city to upgrade its water and sewer system, is the primary contributor of the rats in the city, he said, adding that another fee is “a double whammy” for businesses.
But Ward 3 Councillor Arthur Guinasso disagreed: “We’re talking fifty dollars… We’re requiring a maintenance plan and that they clean the dumpsters three times a year. They should do it weekly… [Leaving it up to] chance isn’t working. Financially it is very minor. [The fee] only becomes costly if you’re an offender.”
He went on to say: “[The ordinance] is a way of telling the community that we have services for them. This is a very reasonable tool.”
As an amendment to the ordinance, Ward 2 Councillor Ira Novoselsky requested that owners of vacant buildings in the city be required to bait their properties for rats at least once a year.
Revere has over 100 vacant buildings, Catinazzo said. And Novoselsky said that five of six of them in Ward 2 are Housing Authority properties.
In other business, the committee heard arguments for the proposed noise ordinance, a measure that, if passed, would completely overhaul the current one-paragraph ordinance in the city’s books.
Joseph DiNunzio,a 46-year Revere resident, authored the proposal after exhaustive research on noise ordinances in Boston, Cambridge, and other surrounding cities. The language of the new ordinance allows for a 60 decibel limit from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and a 50 decibel limit from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. Each decibel limited would be measured at the property line. The present ordinance allows for 70 decibels 24 hours a day.
“Ten or more complaints are cited every week in The Revere Journal about loud music, noise, and parties,” DiNunzio told committee members Monday night. “This alone counts for over 500 incidents a year, as well as offensive noise from motorcycles, cars, and industrial equipment in residential areas, all of which destroy the peace, dignity, and sanctuary of everyone’s home and environment… Enough is enough.”
The proposal expands enforcement powers to include the department of inspectional services. DiNunzio and Police Sgt. Chris Giannino argued that the department should be involved since noise disturbances are a health issue.
To aid in the enforcement, Councillor Novoselsky recommended that police officers and cruisers carry hand-held noise measurement units in order to gauge the noise levels from the street when answering a call or complaint.
But enforcing noise control on passing vehicles, such as loud engine motorcycles and car stereo systems, could be complicated. Monday night Councillor Guinasso called for more vigilance on the streets to “show people we mean business.” “Word will get out. Revere will not tolerate this,” he said.
Sgt. Giannino said Monday night that police officers have already been enforcing loud vehicles —motorcycles and stereos—under Citable Motor Vehicle Violations 90/16 and 90/7U. In the former (“the one most guys will use,” Giannino said in a phone call to The Revere Advocate on Wednesday), officers only have to prove that the noise is an actual disturbance and issue a $50 fine. But 90/7U requires use of the noise meters, which have to be properly calibrated to filter out the ambient noise. Giannino explained the guidelines: For example, motorcycles traveling 45 mph or under are allowed 82 decibels from 50 feet away; those traveling over 45 mph are allowed an 86 decibel limit at 50 feet; for off-road vehicles, the limit is 103 decibels from 20 feet away, said.
He noted that decibel meters are available as an iPhone app, though they offer a mere estimate, since they cannot filter background noise and wind.
But Novoselsky questioned the use of inspectional services as an enforcement agency: “The health department doesn’t work nights or weekends. Also, they are not trained to protect themselves.”
Councillor Zambuto expressed concern for the safety of the inspectors when they are called to break up a noise disturbance or issue a citation. He opined that law enforcement officials are better equipped to handle such situations.
“I don’t want to put one of our inspectors in jeopardy,” Catinazzo said. “We’re not out there to be fighting people. We don’t knock on people’s doors. We issue a fine… [But] I have no problem doing our part,” he added.
But Sgt. Giannino told the committee members that inspectors would not be going into houses. “It’s a joint effort. We’ll work together on it,” he said. On Wednesday, he said, “There’s no way that the inspection guys will be entering houses. It’s a police issue.”
Before calling discussions to a close Monday night, Councillor-at-Large and Committee Chairman Brian Arrigo added an amendment requiring helicopter operators in the city to adhere to the noise ordinance.
Arrigo’s request potentially brings a previously resolved council issue back into discussion. During the April 30 meeting, the city council approved, in an 8–3 vote, a special permit for Now City Tours to operate helicopter sightseeing tours from a heliport at 755 North Shore Road. Councillor Arrigo had cast one of the dissenting votes.
In a conversation after the meeting, Arrigo said that he has received calls from some residents, most of whom abut the Rent-A-Tool property, about helicopter noise. He said he is not trying to put the sightseeing helicopter tours out of business, but only to protect the residents in the area. Since the permit was granted, the issue of the noise levels from helicopter operations has been pushed aside, Arrigo added.
Steve Williams, partner with Now City Tours and owner of Rent-A-Tool, was a little surprised to hear of the news when called for comment by The Revere Advocate on Wednesday. He said that he has not heard any complaints from neighbors.
But Williams cited a recent incident that perhaps drew undue attention to his company. Last week helicopter activity was spotted over the city’s eastern edge, particularly Oak Island. Williams said he saw and heard those helicopters, but added that those vehicles had nothing to do with Now City Tours. They were likely National Grid helicopters, he said. He noted that Coast Guard helicopters also fly in those vicinities while performing their duties.
When people see a helicopter, they automatically think it’s Now City Tours, Williams said. “We don’t fly over Oak Island… I’ve done everything I can to comply [with the rules],” he said.
Both of the proposed ordinances head back to the full council for a vote.