Despite what it might have sounded like, pterodactyls did not invade the alley between the Athens County Board of Elections and the Athens County Court of Common Pleas.
Over the past month, people walking down Court Street noticed exceptionally loud noises resembling those of distressed birds coming from the alley next to the Board of Elections.
“At first I was like, 'what the hell?' because I used to work at Donkey, and so I spent a lot of time walking through this alley to put trash in the dumpsters,” Mary Pyles, an Athens resident, said.
Charlie Brown, the building superintendent of Athens County, assured that people were not imagining the strange bird sounds occurring at all hours of the day.
At the end of September, maintenance workers for the county buildings in Athens had enough with the bird droppings coming mainly from the pigeons landing on the courthouse. The attempted solution was the installation of an electronic box that put out different variations of predator and distressed bird noises on a timed schedule. The hope was that the distress sounds would frighten the pigeons enough to deter them from roosting on and around the courthouse.
“I knew it was a recording. It sounded too much like a pterodactyl being attacked in the jungle. I was like ‘yeah, that’s not real,’ ” Kelly Basilio, an employee at the Board of Elections, said.
If bird droppings scattered on the outside of the courthouse were not enough to make Brown and his staff take action, the pesky pigeons sneaking into the attic of the courthouse were.
“We were just trying to test something out because two things — the droppings on the outside of the building are kind of severe, but then also they’re migrating around enough so that they’re finding their way inside of the attic because that’s where they were really creating what potentially could be a health problem,” Brown said.
Building maintenance first tried placing the device in the bell tower on top of the courthouse to take advantage of the acoustics.
“We played in there for a week and a half or two ... it had some effect on them but not what we (were) hoping for,” Brown said.
The creators of the device suggested to Brown that the louvers — angled slats fixed in the bell tower to allow light and air to pass — were projecting the sound too far downward. Because the device was guaranteed to be water and weatherproof, the next location maintenance tried was the roof of the courthouse.
The experiment ended abruptly after a big rain Athens experienced last week, despite the waterproof guarantee for the device.
“The guy that works with me unplugged it,” Brown said, “brought it down and the water was dripping out of it and I said, ‘Well I thought that was supposed to be sealed,’ and he said ‘Yeah, they said it was.’ ”
Brown is uncertain what the next attempt at keeping away the unwelcome birds will be. Installing the distress device was not the first attempt he has seen to scare away the pooping pigeons.
The device likely did not work as well as planned because of birds’ ability to become desensitized to triggers supposed to scare them off, Brown said.
The device cost building maintenance about $250. However, a disappointed Brown said he has every intention of having the money refunded that went toward the bird box.