Housing authority embroiled in financial battle with bedbugs

By MEGAN SCHULLER – mschuller@shawmedia.com

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Eric Ginnard – eginnard@shawmedia.com

Officials from the Housing Authority of Joliet claimed they have taken steps to combat the bedbug scourge plaguing resident of a downtown building.

“Back in October, we knew it was a problem that was growing. We tried to treat it and get ahead of it,” said Mark Jakielski, chief operating officer of the public housing program,.

Jakielski and other officials addressed residents’ concerns at a Wednesday afternoon meeting.

The Joliet Housing Authority entered into a contract around then with its exterminating company for $60,000 to cover a 12-month period, Jakielski said.

In the past eight months, that contract has more than doubled to roughly $137,000, he said.

Based on the 12-month projection, the board is looking at an expected $205,000 cost just to handle the bedbugs.

“We are going to continue the education process with the residents because it does seem to have a very positive impact,” Jakielski said. “We’re not climbing on something that’s impossible to treat, but we don’t want to see it go any higher. It would be ideal if it was zero.

“But knowing what’s being faced by us and the rest of the county it’s going to be hard if we continue to have residents that are not compliant.”

Jakielski said he isn’t blaming residents, but instead said that it is a partnership between the management company and residents that needs to be reinforced.

“And we’re being cognizant of the fact people do have mental disabilities, and people with dementia, so we can’t say they’re not cooperating because what you say on Monday they won’t remember,” Commissioner Robert Hernandez told to the board Wednesday.

Melody Woods, one of the caretakers of 98-year-old Murphy Building resident Paulette Robinson, spoke up out of concern for her friend and for the residents.

“These people are supposed to be in their golden years and they should be living the best years of their life but they can’t sleep,” Woods said. “If you wouldn’t want your parents to live like that, please don’t expect anybody else’s to live like that.”

Hernandez questioned Jakielski on the condition of the laundry room and how often it is cleaned after visiting the John C. Murphy complex early Wednesday morning.

“When I was up there I was taken by surprise. I was standing next to two plastic bags wide open. Infected bags were left wide open. They can get in other peoples clothes,” Hernandez said. “I was already exposed, it didn’t even dawn on me.”

Residents also were upset that not all of them received a letter regarding a semiannual meeting where they can voice their opinion. Jakielski said that it is part of their outreach to residents and that it was not meant to single residents out.

“We know there’s going to be issues and we’re trying to prepare to deal with that,” Hernanadez said.

John Chow, the housing auhtority’s chief of development and operations at the Housing Authoiruty of Joliet, said that “aggressive measures” have been undertaken.

“As far as our effort since the peak infestation period in September and October, we have taken very aggressive measures. Financially we are going to triple the budget. Education-wise, we are very proactive with our management staff, the frontline staff and the residents,” Chow said.

Chow said it’s unclear why Robinson’s unit continues to get infested, but also said that a detailed log of every unit is kept to track when every unit is inspected.

“In this particular case, it’s unfortunate because it’s a repeated case and they keep coming up. Ms. Wood said she doesn’t think the contractor is properly doing that process.
If that’s the case, that they aren’t doing the job, then believe me – I’m going to get to why that’s not done,” Chow said.

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