International Towers is actively working to alleviate a bedbug infestation, according to officials of Millenia Housing Management of Cleveland, which owns the downtown Youngstown high-rise for elderly and disabled people.
“We’re managing the problem. It doesn’t mean we have a remedy,” said Alan Weckerly, Millennia’s vice president for operations.
Linda McConnell, Millennia’s regional manager, said resolving the problem is akin to the needed supports for a three-legged stool because it requires the cooperation of the building management, the exterminating contractor and the tenants.
For example, McConnell said tenants whose apartments have bedbugs should follow proper procedures for laundering and drying their clothes and should refrain from visiting other apartments to avoid spreading the pests.
Mark Hubbard, a resident of the 16-story, 173-apartment International Towers at 25 Market St., complained of a bedbug infestation in June, and his apartment was sprayed June 27 and July 17.
He said the pests disappeared from his apartment after the June 27 spraying, returned in mid-July, disappeared again after the July 17 spraying and returned late last week.
“Everybody that I’ve spoken to that had treatment — the bedbugs are back,” he said, adding that he is aware of at least 15 to 20 International Towers residents who have a bedbug infestation in their apartments. “They’ve let the problem get so far out of hand,” Hubbard said of building management.
He said management’s approach has been to have one exterminator spray in a few apartments at a time. Hubbard said he would like a more-comprehensive approach with multiple exterminators coming at once to spray the whole building. “That is the only way you’ll get rid of them,” he said.
Weckerly said, however, that management is following the extermination procedures recommended by Terminix.
Despite their disagreements on various issues, one thing everyone involved seems to agree on is the difficulty of eliminating the problem.
“They are travelers. They get on your clothes,” and are transported widely, Hubbard said.
The pests travel on luggage, shoes and clothes, agreed Susie Burnham, a public-health nurse with the city health department who is working with International Towers residents and management to solve the problem.
“They’re very, very difficult to get rid of,” Burnham said, adding that management of the high-rise has “gone above and beyond” the norms for bedbug eradication.
At various times this past summer, Hubbard said he has seen large trash receptacles outside the high-rise filled with discarded, bedbug-infested furniture, with some of the overflowing furniture accumulating outside the receptacles.
Although McConnell said management and the exterminator haven’t found the bugs in Hubbard’s apartment, Hubbard maintains he should be reimbursed for bedbug-infested mattresses and upholstered furniture he said he’s had to discard. “I don’t have money to throw away all my furniture” and replace it, he said.
McConnell said Terminix tries to treat infested furniture, but, if it’s too heavily infested to be treated successfully, Millennia helps tenants with proper disposal. She said, however, management doesn’t reimburse tenants for their losses.
“This is a nationwide problem, McConnell said. “This is not something that is the result of our failure to do something.”