There are any number of reasons why people might stay away from church, but one of those reasons is typically not that rats are chasing church-goers away.
However, that was just the issue at the First Congregational Church on County Road last month.
Unearthed by nearby construction projects and, probably, the Washington Avenue reconstruction program, church officials and members were frequently having to fight large rats to get in the door on Sundays.
It was more than a little disconcerting because such occurances in the nice, quiet neighborhood above Rt. 1 are quite rare.
“They were following people up the street and I would get there early and chase them away,” said Church Moderator Marion McDonough. “We were afraid to open the door when it was so hot because we thought they might try to come in. I was sitting at the front door with a chair and a broom making sure they stayed away.”
Another church member – who asked to remain anonymous – said she decided to take some action when the rats began to get a little to aggressive.
“People were coming to church and the rats were scurrying right in front of them,” she said. “They went right in the front and were scaring a lot of people. It was getting bad and we were afraid to leave the church door open because if they were outside they might come inside.”
That parishioner decided to turn to City Hall, and using the telephone she got nowhere. So, she turned to the Internet and registered the problem on the City’s website with the ‘SeeClickFix’ program.
“I had no clue who to contact about this,” she said. “I made a phone call to the City and was transferred around and no one got back to me. We found out about the ‘SeeClickFix’ and it gave me another route to get the problem highlighted. It was very positive because within a few days we got a response about an effort to bait the manholes on County Road. As far as we can see now, the issue has been resolved. It was nice because it wasn’t ongoing for three or four months. It was actually three or four days and it was a quick response.”
All through the City, residents have registered complaints or highlighted problems on the program since it was introduced last year.
People are able to identify the problem on a map, describe the issue and even post pictures of the issue at hand.
Several residents have posted pictures of graffiti using the program, helping City officials find and elminate that problem much quicker.
“SeeClickFix has helped us get more accurate and timely information about things like potholes and downed signs; things we may have come across, but days later than those who are living or driving by the problems will see. We’ve got a process in place that creates a work order and is allowing us to more efficiently and effectively deal with those types of issues, and, by communicating with the public, we are generating more confidence in our ability to get things done,” said DPW Director Joe Foti.
City Manager Jay Ash said the system has been up and running successfully for about a year, and the City is very pleased with how the public has embraced it and how it has helped to resolve issues that might have previously fallen through the cracks.
He said that he and Inspectional Services workers and DPW workers meet every other week to look over new or outstanding items reported through the program. They have even began encouraging users to search for new problems, such as potholes.
“The system empowers local observers to be ‘eyes and ears,’ looking, hearing and ultimately reporting problems that they see in the community that require a response from primarily either ISD or DPW,” said Ash. “Reporters can tell us what they see by sending us a message from their computer or their phones using the SeeClickFix application. From there, the system goes to work, directing the item to the appropriate official for a review and response. Each step we take results in the person reporting the matter actually getting an email back from us with an update. We’ve resolved scores of issues already.”
One of those issues solved has come to the great delight of church-goers up at the First Congregational, who no longer have to ruffle their Sunday best while running away from rats to get inside their church.
“The bottom line is we reached out and we got help,” said the parishioner. “It’s a nice feature and in some ways it makes the City accountable. It shows others what the problems are and what the City is doing about those problems. If we ever have another problem, we will use it again because it gets action.”
Ash reminded residents that they should not use the ‘SeeClickFix’ program to report crimes. He said that the Chelsea Police have a similar computer program called ‘MyPD’ that is available free of charge and allows residents to report crimes and submit pictures or video right to officers and supervisors who are patrolling the area.
To access ‘SeeClickFix,’ go to the City of Chelsea’s website and click on the logo at the left hand side of the main page. A free app can also be downloaded onto a phone or mobile device.
Logo is self-explanatory
The First Congregational Church pictured here on County Road turned to the City’s Internet reporting program when rats began to invade their worship time. Parishioners said after striking out over the phone, City crews abated the problem in a matter of days after the church turned to the computer reporting program.