City creating plan to deal with pest control issues at Henry Long Tower and Dayton Lane Gardens

COVID-19 pandemic prevented some treatments from occurring

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Following recent public complaints about infestations of bedbugs, roaches and mold, the Butler housing authority this week resumed requiring tenants of the Henry A. Long Tower, where residents receive public assistance, to let pest control companies in to treat the pests. If they don’t, they may face eviction.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated insect and mold problems at the tower, located at 150 South B St. in Hamilton, the executive director of the Butler Metropolitan Housing Authority, Ben Jones, said this week.

During the pandemic, the housing authority allowed residents to refuse pesticide treatments because with the pandemic, they were unwilling to let people into their apartments. Now, rather than the pre-pandemic policy of allowing three refusals, evictions will start after two, Jones told the Journal-News.

Meanwhile, a resident of another BMHA apartment complex in Hamilton, the Dayton Lane Gardens, told this news outlet residents have experienced similar problems there.

Kevon Armstrong, 34, who has lived at Dayton Lane Gardens five years, said, “right now, we have a really, really bad roach infestation. Roaches are truly all over the walls. They’re inside and outside the washer and dryer machines. They’re in the common areas and the elevators.”

Armstrong sent photos of the roaches in the complex at 122 North 6th St. Also at his complex, “People were trying to get treated in July” for bedbugs, he said. “And we just now got treated for it this month.”

The infestations were a problem before the pandemic hit last year, Armstrong said.

The problems at Henry Long Tower became public after resident Paul Trinka told Hamilton City Council last week about them. Trinka and Armstrong both showed up again at this week’s council meeting but Tom Vanderhorst, the city’s external director of External Services, told them that rather than speaking at the meeting, they should wait to hear from him Thursday, because the city’s health department was looking into it, Armstrong said.

Hamilton Health Commissioner Kay Farrar said she has spoken with housing authority officials, and, “I think that we all have to be patient and let their courses run. They are doing, at least on paper, what I would expect them to do with the current situation. I think they’re working very well.”

“They’ve got a plan. They’re tackling it,” she said. “They’re not sweeping it under the rug.”

“These problems have been substantially exacerbated by the COVID pandemic,” the housing authority’s news release states. “Our leases give us the right to enter apartments to address mold and bug issues,” the release continued. “But because of COVID concerns, tenants have been refusing to let us enter their units to perform maintenance.”

“Historically, if a tenant refuses to let us enter to address bug infestations, we have after three such refusals sought to evict the tenant so that we can get into the apartment,” the release added. “During the pandemic, however, we have been more reluctant to evict tenants.”

“For example, one tenant who has complained has refused to let us enter their apartment nine times since this last May and that tenant is still in the apartment,” it added.

A Journal-News photographer recently saw roaches crawling over furniture in the tower, and saw a black mold-like substance on a ceiling.

“As a result of the recent reports, we are resuming our historical practice regarding evicting tenants who refuse to allow us to enter to (perform) extermination services. In addition, over the last 60 days, we have been deep-cleaning vacant apartments and moving tenants from problematic apartments into those cleaned apartments,” the authority’s announcement stated. “We will continue to address these kinds of issues as they arise.”

Trinka said some residents have turned away exterminators because they had health issues that made them unable to move furniture and other items as required by the exterminators.

Jones told this media outlet other maintenance issues at the tower have not received the attention they normally would because at times, the maintenance staff was at about 50 percent. It’s now at about 75 percent, he estimated.

Jones also said he expects to submit a report to the city in coming days about what authority officials are doing to remediate the issues.

The infestation problems are something that come with aging buildings, such as both complexes, Jones said. The housing authority hopes to perform substantial rehabilitations — or demolitions and rebuilding — of 700 of its 1,138 Hamilton and Middletown apartments in coming years, Jones said. That includes both the Henry Long Tower and Dayton Lane Gardens, he said.

A housing-authority analysis a few years ago found it had about $26 million in deferred capital needs, Jones said.

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