Monday, August 23, 2010
Lorraine Carter has had to throw out most, if not all, of her possessions because of a pest that hasn’t been eliminated.
“I constantly have to keep the carpet swept and clean because they are in the carpet,” she said. “You don’t feel good at all, and I see them frequently.”
Carter and several of her neighbors are angry at what they said is a Band-Aid approach to eliminating a bed bug infestation at Carriage Circle Apartments that was first reported in August 2009.Sou
“I think they have a mind-set about folks that are low income that ‘OK, well we already took care of you, we don’t have to do nothing more for you,’ ” resident Christy Friday said.
“That is the way they think, they do as little as possible.”
A last resort
Carriage Circle Apartments is off Auburn Avenue near Spring Lake in Pontiac.
As it stands, residents don’t know where to turn to make certain the facility is in a livable condition.
According to Pontiac Housing Commission Executive Director Franklin Hatchett, it is federally owned and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development pays for “every facet, from the maintenance to pesticides.”
However, HUD officials said that is incorrect.
“HUD doesn’t own apartments,” said spokesman Jerry Brown, adding the federal agency has supplemented the cost to provide a number of apartments in the complex for low-income people.
Brown said the building is privately owned and it is up to the Pontiac Housing Commission to make certain the owners of the complex keep it up to certain standards.
“If you are not upholding your responsibility, and if the housing authority doesn’t make you fix it, then it’s (HUD’s) job,” he said.
Hatchett said they’ve contacted Orkin Pest Control Services and were told it would cost about $600 per unit to have the complex fumigated with the guarantee the bed bugs wouldn’t return for a month.
The facility has 264 units and the $158,400 price tag doesn’t include the cost to fumigate the common areas.
The federal government hasn’t made the money available to completely fumigate the entire facility, but work is being done to obtain the funding, Hatchett said.
“Our hope is that there are other housing agencies and if they start appropriating money for one, they will have to do it for all,” he said.
Pontiac Councilman Kermit Williams’ district includes the apartment complex, and he said work is being done to obtain the funding.
Williams said he is talking to U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow and also obtained a number of residents’ testimonials to influence the request.
“I have an inspector’s report ... as far as getting something done, it’s going to take the national HUD office to help with the local Pontiac Housing Commission,” he said.
In July, the Michigan Department of Community Health released information on its website about eliminating bed bugs after increasing reports and anxiety in metropolitan regions of the state.
A national bed bug summit involving pest management companies is being held in Chicago in September. The summit will touch on the increased infestation reports and elimination methods.
“We in Michigan have been seeing them increase at an alarming rate,” said Mark Sheperdigian, vice president of technical services for the Troy-based Rose Pest Solutions.
Sheperdigian is also a board-certified entomologist and certified pesticide applicator in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.
Rose Pest Solutions was founded in 1860 and provides pest control services for homes and businesses in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and parts of Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Sheperdigian said bed bugs had been pretty obscure prior to 2000.
“After they reappeared, we found that many of the populations were resistant to the materials being used,” he said.
Multiunit complexes can be difficult to treat because the pests are good at hiding and spread easily, Sheperdigian added.
“The eggs and the first hatched babies are tiny and very small, so it’s easy to miss them,” he said. “If you saw them on a flat surface, then you would see them immediately.
“But they can be overlooked on a pillow or suitcase.”
Bites can go undiagnosed because the marks left by bed bugs can be mistaken as those of a mosquito or spider, he said.
The cost associated with pest control for bed bug infestations at public housing units appears to be an issue, as well.
“For public housing, they are frequently limited to low bid,” Sheperdigian said. “Bed bugs are extremely tough to deal with and it is expensive to do.”
The resiliency of bed bugs and their ability to spread easily also makes the pest difficult for homeowners to eliminate infestations without professional help.
“It should be done by a professional because it’s difficult for even a professional to do it,” he said.
A money issue?
Some say even if the building is entirely cleared of the bed bugs, that is no guarantee the pests won’t be back within two months.
Some residents are too embarrassed to admit they have a bed bug problem before it spreads or are hoarders and don’t keep their unit clean, Hatchett said.
All kinds of issues come with being an agency that provides housing of last resort, and eradicating a pest like bed bugs is difficult, he said.
“Even when you do it, (exterminators will) tell you (they) will guarantee it for a month,” Hatchett said. “As soon as someone walks back in with one, they’re back.”
What funding the commission is given through HUD has strict guidelines on how it is spent and it can’t be used without their authorization, he added.
“We’ve been inspected,” he said. “I want to say the HUD people have been here at least seven times this year.
“They come out a minimum of once a year but with the stimulus money, that has caused everyone to be on high alert. We have to answer to a higher authority.”
Brown said there is something wrong if inspection crews had been to that location more than once a year.
“It’s an annual inspection unless there is a problem,” he said. “That is the normal cycle. If they said HUD officials have been out there that number of times, that is very, very rare.”
Those inspections must have resulted in failing examinations or officials insisting upon changes that need to be met, Brown said.
Any problems discovered during inspections are documented and presented to the management with an opportunity to correct it, he said.
“It’s very rare we would inspect a place more than three times,” he said.
Owners that refuse to comply with such problems will have the residents removed and placed in other facilities, Brown said.
“That is a last option,” he said. “We would prefer the units be repaired appropriately before forcing families to move.”
Meanwhile, Friday said residents are throwing out items they can’t afford to replace and doesn’t think it’s fair they are being punished for a problem that has been allowed to grow.
“If we damage the apartment, we would have to pay for it,” she said.
Contact staff writer Shaun Byron at 248-745-4685 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Facebook and @ShaunByron on Twitter.
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