8News Investigates: RRHA’s Bed Bug Problem

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RICHMOND (WRIC) – Sleep
tight. Don't let the bed bugs bite. It's a popular nursery rhyme, but an 8News
investigation uncovers the real bed bug bite for Richmonders is to their
wallets.

Fadu Muhammadali is a
proud man – proud of his name and proud of the condition in which he keeps the Gilpin
Court apartment he calls home.

“I believe in
cleanness,” he says. “I'm Muslim and one thing we believe in is keeping our
homes clean and sanitized and maintained at all times.”

But despite best efforts, Muhammadali
shows pictures and video of his home being invaded by bed bugs.

He is far from being alone.
According to a study by Orkin, Richmond ranks as the 10th
worst city in the country for bed bug infestations.

Public housing, with its
high density population living in close quarters, has been especially hard hit.

8News Investigative Reporter
AJ Lagoe
decided to find out just how much the taxpayer funded agency was
spending in their fight against the blood suckers. It's an eye popping amount.

In just the first nine
months of the year, RRHA reports paying private contractors nearly three
quarters of a million dollars ($748,422.50) for bed bug extermination.

Initially, RRHA Public
Relations Manager Osita Iroegbu agreed to be interviewed about how RRHA is
handling and paying for bedbug extermination, but after conferring with her
bosses, she backed out and refused to go on camera. Instead She re-sent a press
release in which CEO Adrienne Goolsby is quoted saying the RRHA has “invested
heavily in bed bug prevention, treatment and control in RRHA communities.”

But is it a wise
investment?

In this memo, HUD, The
Federal Department of Housing And Urban Development, urges public housing
management to use “the most economical methods available” to combat
bed bugs.

As part of the
investigation, Lagoe traveled to Norfolk, whose public housing agency has been
dealing with the same bedbug outbreak, but is spending far less public funds
fighting it.

“We're able to get in,
get out and know the problem has been taken care of,” says Tom Costello,
NRHA Extermination Supervisor.

Instead of paying private
contractors to do the extermination, NRHA spent $13,000 and bought their own
heating equipment and have extermination supervisor Tom Costello and their own
employees doing the treatments

“It's kind of a win
all the way around especially in a public housing situation,” he says.

In the last two fiscal
years combined, NRHA has spent just $215,000 fighting bed bugs – more than half
a million less than RRHA has in the past nine months.

“I wonder where it's
going because they ain't spending it here,” Muhammadali says.

Muhammadali say if RRHA was
doing their job correctly, the bedbug treatment bill would probably be even
higher. He took them the pictures and video he showed 8News.

“[I] took it to the
office and they said it was my responsibility to have extermination done.”

but that's not true. According
to attorneys, “the law is clear here it's not the tenants fault and it's not
the tenants responsibility” when it comes to bed bugs.

With RRHA refusing to
exterminate bed bugs in his apartment, and unable to pay for it himself, Muhammadali
threw out and replaced the infected mattress and says all he can do is keep
cleaning and pray the bed bugs don't bite.

Last month, RRHA sent personnel
to Norfolk to study how they're handling bed bug out breaks. But they refuse to
tell 8News if they'll be implementing the more economical approach to
extermination.

 

Copyright 2013 by Young Broadcasting of
Richmond

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