Pigeon abatement system on trial at Washington County Courthouse

Sue Guinn Legg • Oct 16, 2013 at 4:47 PM

Tuesday was the first day of a test run for a new environmentally friendly pigeon abatement system at the Washington County Courthouse in Jonesborough.

A motion-activated sound system designed by Hiram Rash of GRC Construction Services of Kingsport to scare away pigeons by emitting the calls of predatory birds was installed in the louvers of the courthouse clock tower Tuesday morning and immediately appeared to be on task.

“We’ve seen them fly off,” County Zoning Administrator Mike Rutherford said, observing from the street below as pigeons landing on the clock tower activated the system’s staccato chirping and quickly took flight. “It’s the most humane way to deal with pigeons.”

Rutherford said the system has worked successfully in downtown Kingsport and has the capability to scare away pigeons within a 1½-mile radius.

“We’re taking care of pigeons for everyone” around downtown Jonesborough, Rutherford said. “It’s under test and today is day one, the first day of experimentation.”

The new sound system is the latest in a series of attempts to rid the courthouse of its long-running pigeon infestation.

Early last year, the county was criticized by the Humane Society of the United States, downtown Jonesborough residents and an ornithology expert at East Tennessee State University after it purchased more than $2,000 worth of toxicant for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services Division to administer to the birds over a two-month period. Various other abatement systems have been discussed since then.

In addition to nuisance, the pigeons have contributed to structural damage of the 100-year-old courthouse, including its aging gutters which have been clogged by their excrement and need to be replaced, Rutherford said.

While at the courthouse Tuesday, GRC also spent several hours assessing the courthouse roof, eaves, molding and guttering for damage and needed repairs.

On the recommendation of the County Owned Property Committee, Rutherford said the county entered a $6,000 contract with GRC to come up with a plan to get rid of the pigeons, assess the courthouse for damage and develop a renovation plan for consideration by the committee.

“Hiram Rash and his company will take that data and formulate a report detailing what it needs.

“It will be up to the committee to decide if they want to do it all at once or if they want to do it in phases,” he said.

Recommended for You

    Johnson City Press Videos