8News Investigates: RRHA's Bed Bug Problem - ABC 8NEWS - WRIC | Richmond, Virginia News & Weather

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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