Sunday, September 28, 2014

It won't be long now (and not a moment too soon..)

I can pretty much just continue from my last post (2 years ago this month) and report that next month I'll be relocating, at least temporarily while the old Chesterfield Hotel goes through a renovation.

Since receiving that notification letter back in 2012 it's taken a full two years for the grant[s?] to be approved, and all the business details to be completed. Finally the construction will begin in about a month.

Maybe the building is aware of the changes coming. Twice today our new fire alarm system has gone off for no apparent reason. A detector in a entryway was the source of both alarms occurring just hours apart but it wasn't smoke/fire that set it off. That's the only good part of having to evacuate the building twice in the same day and wait until the fire department checks and gives the all-clear (and shuts off the alarm!), at least there was no actual fire. I'm sure the fire fighters, like the residents, have better things to do on a Sunday afternoon than respond to false alarms.

I wasn't even sure that the building could be renovated. There is so much dry rot evident in and around my apartment and the vinyl siding separating in so many places because the nails holding it on don't have any decent wood to attach to. The wood sills in two out of three of my windows are rotten and the single 'modern' window started separating from my wall when I tried installing an air conditioner in it. Just the fact that water was able to get into the framework around those windows, for who knows how long before I moved in makes me wonder how much mold is in the walls.
The apartment next door had a shower stall leaking into the apartment below for quite a while and the apartment on the first floor (# 1) supposedly has a recurring issue of sewage backing up.
The shingles (at least on the back section) have been falling off faster and faster all of which contributes to water getting into places it's not supposed to be.
The foundation (a very old one) has a serious leak (when it rains) that flows across the basement floor and required a sump pump (cheaper than fixing the foundation but pound foolish in the long-term).
I've only been here two years but I get the feeling this building has been neglected for much of it's later life.

I certainly hope the renovation includes some badly needed energy saving improvements, and after the work is done I would hope the property is maintained better than it has been recently. The same goes for the other properties being renovated.

As I hope we've heard the last of the fire alarm.

- Edited on 9/30/2014 4:49 PM

Monday, September 17, 2012

An Unwelcome Coincidence

The building today, September 16, 2012

And here we are.... Back in Western Mass after 33 years.

I'm told this apartment building is the former 'Chesterfield Hotel'. At what point it was turned into apartments I haven't discovered yet.

Now I've mentioned some coincidences between my former residence and this one. Both are former hotels and both are owned by similar organizations. The reason I had to move out of the Endicott was because they decided to do a major renovation (and upgrade) of the building and that required all the tenants to move out.

Last letter from CATCH / MB Management regarding moving out.

For the previous several years I had been entertaining the idea of moving back to Western Massachusetts. By the time my father passed away in April of 2006 I'd already stopped my security blogging on the Concord Monitor Online website and really had nothing significant tying me to New Hampshire. My mother was suffering from Alzheimer's and though I knew moving to Mass would mean a significant increase in my cost of living I'd be able to visit her much more. Unfortunately I was still waiting to hear from the management of Nash Hill Place when she passed away in March of 2010.

Fast forward two years to March 2012. I've just recently moved into this new apartment and I'm trying to settle in. I need stability and absolutely hate the disruption associated with moving. So imagine what it was like to get this letter:
Deja vu?
Seriously, what are the odds? Of course nothing was mentioned to me about this when I was shown the apartment or when signing the lease nor at any time in the month (or so) prior to receiving this letter. I don't know if it would have made any difference because Nash Hill Place still didn't have any openings (and couldn't/wouldn't even tell me where I was on their waiting list..), I hadn't found anything else and I felt I was over-staying my welcome where I was staying. This place was suddenly available, the price was right, and despite being further away than I'd hoped it is a nice quiet place (well, except for occasional sudden heart-stopping outbursts from my neighbor's autistic son next door). I have birds singing and wind rustling the leaves (& a collection of wind chimes down on the porch) and crickets and peepers to listen to instead of the sounds of city traffic in downtown Concord, New Hampshire.

No, compared to the noise* of a busy city intersection with buses & trucks, amateur drag racers, motorcycles (especially during the Loudon race week), and every four years politicians and their supporters literally banging drums out in front of my building at 8 AM with those "Honk if you support _________" signs, this place is wonderful..

I recently heard that the grant for the renovation was not granted but then just the other day I received another letter implying that the process was ongoing, and if renovations do occur it won't be until early 2014. Maybe by then I'll have finally moved all the belongings out of my storage unit in Easthampton (it's a long process when you have no help and try to do most of it using a Toyota Camry).

So there you have it, my first blog post in ages.. It feels good to start writing again. I think it might be the weather picking me up. This first real taste of cooler dry air is nice.

*Of course the narrow space between my building and the recently built office building 20 ft away worked to amplify those sounds and *especially* the emptying of the dumpster every day around 7 AM.

Edited on 9/28/2014 (I added 1 word and added a space between sentences.)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Adios Endicott.. I'm Goin' Home

I'll write a full closing post once I'm settled in a new apartment, but my time at The Endicott is over and thus the end of The Endicott Dispatch is near.

I'm currently staying with old friends while I search for an affordable apartment near to the VA hospital where I now get my health care. Even with the uncertainty of not having a 'home' yet my health has taken a dramatic turn for the better. My Blood Glucose readings have gone from averaging 165 to (in just two weeks) a 14 day average of 105.. All of my pants are too big for me now and my belt is at it's smallest notch. Of course not everything is that good.. I'm dreading the moving of my belongings that are now in storage (after being moved by the company contracted by CATCH) and seeing all the damage done by the movers during their moving and packing of my stuff into the storage unit. 

More on their destructive technique and it's effect on my furniture and other belongings will be in my final post........ I'll have pictures for sure, but this might call for video (& potentially explosive language!!). -- Stay tuned....

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hot Water, No Hot Water? Oh Yeah, And No Cold Water Either..

I'd sure like to know what is going on with the water lately.. I've noticed that the 'cold' water stays around 82 degrees regardless of how long you let it run, and most recently the hot water can be scalding-hot during the day but [recently] barely warm (91-92 degrees) at night.

Not too long ago on a Friday evening, I think it was back in June I started to fill a dishpan to wash some dishes. I waited for the water to get hot but after a while I realized that there was something wrong and there was no hot water. I wasn't too concerned and I figured that maintenance would take care of it the next day. A day passed, then two, and finally either Monday or Tuesday evening we got the hot water back. During this time there was no communication from management whatsoever.

A day or so later there was a 'notice' taped to the front entrance door stating that there wouldn't be any hot water for a period of time (I think it was the following day) because Concord Steam had to do some repairs/maintenance. Great timing, I thought to myself..
Hodges Management (our previous property managers) used to keep us well informed and we were frequently getting notices through the mail or on our apartment doors when something was happening. Now when something (like the hot water being off temporarily) happens a note is taped to the front and back entrance doors and if you don't go in/out during that time (like some of us) the notice is useless.

I never bothered to inquire as to the reasons for either the hot water problem or the fact that we were left without any hot water for close to 4 days. At that time I'd just been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, my blood sugar was close to 600, and my vision was getting so bad I had to stop driving for a while because my glasses were practically useless. I was hoping the water problems were fixed, and after my last interaction with management (regarding the 'forced' pest treatment) I had no intention of pushing my already borderline depressive state over the edge.

Since then the hot water has been back to it's usual state of 'burning hot', which is better than not having any hot water at all (but seems like a waste of energy). That was until I recently noticed that the hot water seems to be available only during the day.

Generally I like to try to give others the benefit of the doubt, especially when I don't have all the facts. So like with the heating system during the winter season I get the feeling that being an old building, the controls might be hard to regulate. If that's the case with the heat, the same could be true for the hot water, right?

With no communication from [current] management (as opposed to the excellent relationship we had when Hodges Corp. managed the CATCH properties) and no desire to deal with property management unless absolutely necessary, I'm left to theorize from only what I experience on my end. -- Up to a point..

If the trend of having hot water only during the day continues I'll be forced to deal with it. And I also need to find out why the cold water is so warm this year. I know it gets warmer during the summer months, but in the eight years I've lived here I don't ever recall the 'cold' water being this warm! I could always run the water until the water in the pipes (heated by the building's interior heat) was replaced by somewhat cooler water from underground. Something seems different this year..

The problem is mainly when washing lettuce. When the coolest water available is 81 degrees it makes for some limp lettuce!

What's strange is that every once in a while the water is considerably cooler! It's not in the morning when you would expect it though..

Another effect of this is the amount of water wasted while people are either running the faucet waiting for the water to get hot or cool. 
And now it gets even stranger....
I just stopped writing to use the bathroom, and while washing my hands I let the water run to check the status of the hot water. The hot water is back! (FYI: it's 1:40 AM)

So what is going on? It can't be a simple case of people using the hot water. Each time I've run the water long enough so that (if the system is adjusted correctly) it should have recovered in a reasonable period of time, but the temperature stayed constant (within 3 degrees). I've used multiple reliable thermometers (including a laser-type), taken multiple readings to check for errors and/or fluctuations, and shot video to document it.

Could it be that at exactly the same times I've not been able to get any hot water an unusually high number of residents were all using it at the same time? Every time? Highly unlikely, and the odds are astronomical.

At the end of the day the only thing that matters is that all too often when I've needed hot water it hasn't been available. And this summer the same goes for cold water.

I know things happen, and the building is 100 years old, but I seriously miss the days when I could count on Hodges Management Corp. to let us know what was happening, and to greet me with a friendly smile when I went to their office, instead of feeling like a bother and if something's wrong at the Endicott it's none of my business.

I'm sure that the majority of the residents of the Endicott have enough to deal with making it from day to day, I know I do. Making things harder than they have to be with a hard, uncaring take it or leave attitude is uncalled for and unnecessary.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Where Did Our Cleaner Go**? -&- Why Did It Have To Be This Way?

A day or so before Christmas I was saying "I hope this place gets cleaned before Christmas..". The carpeting needed vacuuming, the elevator floor was all salty from the recent storm, and both entrances needed cleaning also. But Christmas has come and gone, and the only change has been for the worse.

Since then, on my floor, pine needles from someone's Christmas tree have added to the mess in the hallway. Every Sunday I listen for the drone of a vacuum cleaner and the sounds of the brush hitting the edges of the walls near my door but I've heard nothing for close to 3 weeks**. Prior to our Bed Bug infestation the cleaning guy Gene was around all the time (multiple times each week) and the place was looking pretty good. Lately as I said, Sunday seemed to be the day the hallways get vacuumed. That's fine but in the fall, and especially in the winter with all the sand and salt the dirt builds up quickly. Also from a maintenance standpoint the longer the dirt stays on the carpeting getting ground in, the shorter the life of the carpet and the longer it takes to clean (not to mention how bad it looks). Added expenses of time and equipment cost for more frequent carpet cleaning also have me wondering why this is being neglected.

Then there's the Bed Bug issue. It's absurd to say that you're doing what needs to be done to eliminate the bugs when the hallways and common areas are left untouched for this long.

- One of the main points that was made to me (when the property manager forced me to get a pest treatment [suddenly] on the originally scheduled day [I had rescheduled the appointment due to health issues]) was that if the pest company treated all the other apartments around me and didn't do mine at the same time, the bugs would be forced into my apartment..

I can only assume that [he] (and the guy from the pest company who told me the same thing) didn't expect me to use logic when assessing that claim. For when you follow that logic every space in the entire building would have to be done in one day (It wasn't, and every treatment [to date] has only covered parts of the building at a time). This building has spaces between the walls and ceilings and many apartments have apartments above, below, and on either side of them so there are plenty of pathways for bugs and other* pests to travel.

The Bed Bugs have been spotted in the hallways on numerous occasions, so regular (or even daily) vacuuming of the hallways would seem to be called for if you're serious about controlling or eliminating them.

Of course if you're truly serious about eliminating the infestation you should do what was done (in Manchester[?] at around the same time). Moving the tenants into temporary housing so that the entire building can be treated fully and more aggressively.

This 'piecemeal' process that the residents of the Endicott have been put through, having to move all our stuff (every month for 4 months until December for me), totally disrupting our lives in so many ways and for so long, is terrible.

What's worse is the fact that not a word has been communicated to us about our sacrifice or troubles. No 'We're sorry that your lives have been so disrupted, and that many of you have had to discard rugs, mattresses, bedding, furniture and other items..". No outreach informing us that some expenses can be reimbursed, or help in procuring items to replace things like beds or furniture.

What did happen was that instead of facing the problem and dealing with it honestly and with a sense of urgency (and compassion for residents), decisions were delayed, the problem escalated rapidly complicating the solution and it's cost.

And on the public front, adopting a policy of not speaking to the media (and then [some] complaining that "Nobody is hearing our side of it...") makes it appear that they have something to hide. Someone needed to be chosen to take charge [publicly], talk to reporters and simply say 'this is the issue, we're aware of it, and this is what we're doing about it'. Avoiding/shutting out the media looks very bad and is evidence of a situation out of control.

Finally, the incident where I was bullied into keeping my original appointment by the property manager when I'd (responsibly and promptly) called and postponed my appointment was disgraceful. I was scolded by the property manager saying "You can't just call at the last moment and cancel the appointment!" when the truth was that the document with my appointment time on it was left (on a Friday afternoon) in front of my door, in the hallway, without even a knock on the door (I was home all day).
The office was closed by then so I couldn't talk to anyone until Monday.
So at 8 AM Monday morning I called.... and called... at first not even getting an answering machine to leave a message (which I eventually did). In fact I ended up calling CATCH to investigate why no one was answering. Not long after that the phone rang and it was the woman from the MB Mgmt. office telling me that she'd had car trouble. I explained my problem and she agreed to postpone my appointment for the pest treatment (that Thursday).

I'd called as soon as humanly possible and had been told that the appointment would be rescheduled, and no one advised me otherwise.. until Thursday morning at 9 AM.
I was asleep when a knock at the door woke me. I shuffled groggily to the door and opened it to see the pest technicians standing there.... I explained that I had called and arranged to reschedule the appointment, and then I heard our maintenance man say (from somewhere out in the hall) something like 'you have to have it done today.. Gerry (the property manager) will be here shortly to talk to you'.

I just stood there, not quite believing what was happening.. The pest techs decided to go on to another apartment and told me to do my best to prepare my apartment for treatment and they'd be back around noon.
I don't recall what I did next.
At some point Gerry showed up with Ray the maintenance guy and proceeded to explain how important it was to keep to the schedule, and the part about how the bugs will all come into my apartment if I don't get it done that day..
I told him that I had called and was supposed to be rescheduled, at which point he made it sound like I'd called them at the last minute (like I explained above). He also said that the woman I spoke with to reschedule my appointment "...had been fired." and I was left with the impression that it was related to my conversation with her! (Later he said that there were other issues that contributed to her dismissal)

By this time I was starting to lose my patience, not only because of the situation in general but because of Gerry's tone, unfounded accusations, and dishonest arguments. Speaking of his 'tone', it varied between accusatory and bullying, to disingenuously warm, grabbing my hand and holding it while he tried to blow sunshine up my butt (as the saying goes..).

I finally gave up, not having the energy or presence of mind to stand my ground. I said I'd do the best I could to move everything so the treatment could be done and they left.

Something else to bear in mind is that during the [previous] treatment a prized piece of family furniture had been badly scratched despite the fact that I'd put a soft ottoman upside down on top of it for protection and specifically telling the pest technicians to be careful, and being assured that they would. After discovering the damage when I returned I called MB Mgmt. and alerted them.

No one ever contacted me about the incident.... Not MB Mgmt., not Southern NH Pest Company, no one.
I brought it up during the call to reschedule my appointment and the woman said Gerry wanted to know if I could provide pictures of the furniture before the damage occurred. Huh? - Even if there were 'pre-damage' photos, unless they happened to be close-ups it was highly unlikely that it could be determined if there was any prior damage, and even then we've always had some form of place mats or other items on the top for protection.
When I brought this up to Gerry that morning (adding that I'd been a professional photographer for many years) he maintained that I was wrong and that he had been a photographer too.. Even if that was true.. Even if he was a [freakin'] NASA imaging enhancement/analysis specialist it would still be highly unlikely.

- Bottom line, more obvious BS/sunshine..
By the way, when I brought the subject up with the pest technicians later that morning one of them basically shifted the blame to the MB maintenance worker(s).

And if you're wondering about an insurance claim? For one, I'd let my apartment insurance lapse just weeks before because I couldn't afford it, and even if I hadn't there's the standard $500 deductible. As far as me making a claim on Southern NH Pest (who makes a point on their web site of saying that they have excellent insurance coverage)? I brought up the situation when I reinstated my coverage with AAA Ins. the following week and the rep wasn't encouraging at all. If I had been a current customer he told me that AAA would have been in a position to arbitrate for me, but by that time the question was moot.

I have to tell you that treating residents/renters in this manner is uncalled for. I know for a fact that this would not be the case if Hodges Corp. was still our property management company. It's been downhill ever since they were replaced with MB Management.

Among other things, I've have to deal with chronic depression and other psychiatric issues for around ten years. Lately you can add heart problems and more to the list.

This is not something I'd ordinarily admit, but I feel it necessary to emphasize how wrong this situation was.... That day brought me closer to suicide than I've been for years (which the woman I spoke with at CATCH later that day probably noticed). And it's pretty sad that I don't see things changing for the better any time soon.

UPDATE 1/30/2011: Now that all the residents (I was the last) have vacated the building I can say that it never did get much better. The bright spot was probably when they added "Bob" to the maintenance dept.. Always with a smile and laughing frequently, he was certainly a refreshing addition.

I really look forward to being able to put all my things back in their place and know that I won't have to move them again*** (unless *I* want to). I look forward to being able to do laundry and not have to put everything into sealed bags. I look forward to putting things back into cupboards instead of having plastic tubs piled up all over the place. And the day I can climb into bed without first checking myself for bugs will be a good day indeed.

I'd also like to have [from MB Management] the same friendly feeling I got every time I walked into the office at Hodges Realty Corp. .
I really don't think I'm being unreasonable.

* One day I listened while what sounded like a family of rats (or something with claws) climbed up the space inside the wall/partition next to my refrigerator, then across my ceiling to parts unknown. At first I thought workers were threading wiring up through the walls, but after calling the office I was told that there was no work being done in the building.

**[Update] while writing this Gene showed up to vacuum so I went out and wished him a Happy New Year!

- [Update II] I'd like to suggest that Gene might need either a new vacuum or more bags.
It wasn't for lack of effort because I heard him vacuuming our hall for quite a while, but when I went out that night I noticed that a good deal of the pine needles (and other dirt) was still there! -- Also, I heard the hall being vacuumed again yesterday (Wednesday).
That's a welcome sound! THANK YOU!

***[Edit/Update 1/30/2012] Well today we know that didn't last long. The pest treatments continued every few months right up until our forced relocation to enable CATCH to refurbish the building and welcome new tenants paying higher rents. No more 'undesirables' out in front of the building making certain people uncomfortable.. Apparently the sickly color choice and the filthy peeling paint and cracked glass down on the Green Martini side wasn't a serious problem as [literally] nothing was done to it for years.. Not even a simple cleaning to get rid of the cobwebs and dirt built up from years of neglect.

I hope the place gets a nice makeover and I hope the new tenants enjoy it.. And I hope they like the management. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Not a Word from Property Manager or C.A.T.C.H.

Above are a couple of video stills of just some of the Bedbug bites I received. I don't have any shots of the ones I got on my arms, right hand, and both sides of my BUTT!

The following are some of the random thoughts and questions I've had since my last post. I'm waiting for some contact by MB Management but to date there has been a disturbing absence of any communication whatsoever. Obviously I could just call, but that's not the point..

Some thoughts below might be redundant but for my scatterbrain it's more important to get this posted.

Questions for Southern New Hampshire Pest Control and MB Management:

1. When vacuuming should we leave the edges/crevices/heater pipe (& housing) alone?

2. Should we avoid vacuuming completely for a while?

3. There was/is a white powder-residue lightly covering all the flat surfaces. What is it? Is it harmful to electronics, photos, camera lenses, humans?
What about air conditioners? (My filter was plugged-up with white powder!)
4. When vacuuming with anything but a true HEPA vacuum cleaner that white powder gets blown into the air. That doesn't seem safe, is it?

5. Upon returning to my apartment after the treatment the carpet and tile was tacky. Is it OK to mop? (I left it [for now] because I thought that by doing that it might hinder the re-emergence of new bugs)

6. It looks like my dresser drawers were treated with something. Is it safe to put clothes back into them?
(I have skin problems that might be affected by pesticide)
7. Are the Endicott's laundry rooms safe to use? Were/are they infested?

8. If we have to keep clothes, bedding, towels etc. bagged, how long is it going to be?

9. In the 'follow-up' treatments do we have to follow the same instructions?

10. The initial episode was extremely difficult and tiring (physically and emotionally), not to mention disruptive and expensive.

- There has been NO contact from management to date other than the instructions given to those scheduled for treatment. No apologies for the disruption and expense, no visit from management, nothing. What does that say to the residents? It says to me that management (and the company as a whole) doesn't care.....
Now that I think of it there's been NO communication from CATCH either. Of course they hired MB Management to manage their properties, and naturally expect that job to be done competently. This situation is a difficult (if not impossible) one to avoid totally, but the gauge will ultimately be how it was handled.

- I would think that 'best practices' in a situation like this would be immediate contact by management, first by a quick note, and followed up with visits by management.
Asking what assistance is needed if any to prepare for the pest treatment, informing the resident what help is available, and what the resident should expect as far as future communication both by management and the pest company. Also what's entailed in the treatment of their apartment both initially and in the future. Empathy for what the resident is going through and assurance that the situation is being taken seriously (followed by prompt and effective action). Apologies for the resident having their life disrupted shouldn't even have to be listed here.. CATCH should be involved in most of the above too..

Other questions that need to be investigated/answered:

- Were there inspection procedures in place to identify this issue?
- When was it first noticed?

- Who noticed it, a tenant or employee?

- Was it reported by a tenant or employee?

- Once the issue was noticed what was done?

- Was the problem recognized and treated as a serious one that required immediate attention in order to avoid a full-blown infestation?
The company rep quoted in the paper said that they were relying on the advice of the pest company they have used for years.
- What was the pest company initially told?

- What was the advice given to MB from the pest Co.?
- Was MB given 'options' ?

- Did MB accept the full recommendations/plan of the pest Co. ?


- Did MB decide on something [less] after consultation w/ upper mgmt.? (No accusation, just wondering..)

- Did the pest Co/MB act promptly/responsibly?

- Did the pest Co. use the best/most effective treatment available?

- Was MB given the correct information in order to recognize the seriousness of the problem and what would happen if it wasn't addressed immediately?

- What was MB's [legal] responsibility regarding communication to CATCH, residents of the Endicott, and state agencies? Was it done?

- What local, state, and federal laws apply to this situation?

- Was proper consideration given (by MB) to the impact on residents, financially, physically, and emotionally given the varied conditions of the residents?

- Should MB Management or CATCH pay to replace discarded items of residents (morally/legally)?


- (What is the law regarding this and all of the other issues? There should be plenty of precedent set in this area as it's certainly not a new issue!) #######################################
- What assistance is [required] for disabled residents to deal with this? (*is* any required?)
- What assistance is available from local organizations and agencies?

- Are there any local organizations that could assist with furniture for residents who have to throw theirs away (like Harold)?
Potential expenses incurred by residents:

Mattress, box spring, and pillow allergy covers.

Bags (for discarded items and for cleaned items).


Loss of:
Discarded items (bedding, clothes, cushions, furniture, rugs)

In the future:

- Should apartments be required to be [fully] inspected monthly by a pest company?
- Should residents be required to have all used furniture inspected/treated before bringing it into the Endicott?

- Do new laws need to be written?


Questions about Bedbugs & eradication/control treatments:

- What does the latest research tell us about the most effective methods to control and/or kill Bedbugs?

- Who is doing the research?

- Is the treatment used at the Endicott safe?
When thinking about everything required AFTER the fact, what mandates might be adopted to compel landlords and/or property management companies of apartment buildings to do everything possible to identify & treat pest issues like this? And what guidelines should be developed and provided that would assist them?

This issue is something I've heard and read about, but in 52 years have never experienced. I'd think that by now there would be established and effective treatments for Bedbugs. I'd also think that those involved in the hospitality and apartment rental businesses would have both the identification and treatment procedures in place as well as trade publications communicating the latest news & information.

The infestation at the Endicott is likely a failure on multiple levels. I expect that after a full assessment it will be found that the problem should have been identified sooner, taken more seriously, treated sooner and more comprehensively.

Whatever agencies are responsible for oversight should at the very least re assess their procedures to check whether there were any failures and to see if any could be improved.

If negligence is found the appropriate penalties need to be enforced.
Unfortunately it seems that most businesses only follow mandated practices when compelled* to do so and when the penalty is sufficient to have the desired effect.

It's also unfortunate that low income housing (especially when there are a number of psychiatric out-patients as residents) is all too often treated* as less important than higher income apartments. Even more unfortunate is the reliance (by some landlords*) on the fact that low income and disabled residents are much less able or likely to protect their legal rights.

I want to be fair, but I also want the responsible parties to be held accountable where it is called for, and for everyone involved to use this as a learning experience to improve actions in the future. There has to be a better way..

*[I want to make it clear though, that I am not saying that this is necessarily the case in this instance.]

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

Above is the three page document I was given (on Friday) with the time of my pest treatment (the following Tuesday) and the preparation instructions required. The attached bugs are some that I captured with tape as I saw them and wanted to save to show management/pest personnel. If you click on the individual images they will open up into a full-sized (and clear) image.

It was bound to happen.. When The Hodges Co. was replaced as the property management company for CATCH's properties one of the things that changed was our monthly pest inspections. I was promised by the new property manager that they would be resuming the apartment inspections at some point. That was at the end of 2007 and now the Endicott is experiencing a Bed Bug Infestation.

I've lived at the Endicott for just under seven years and have never had a problem with pests of any kind. After spending 1994-1997 in Ft. Lauderdale it's been a welcome change! Frankly I was surprised that such an old building didn't have any noticeable pest problem.What I'm not surprised by however, is the fact that we developed a problem after the apartment inspections were stopped.

When Hodges was our property manager we also had quarterly safety inspections. Now those inspections are few and far between, and the items checked are much fewer. I tend to notice things like that because I worked for Concord Royal Gardens inspecting apartments.

Now I'm no 'Mr. Clean' but I keep my apartment generally free of leftover food or anything that might attract bugs. I vacuum and dust when I get ambitious and generally keep things clean, which isn't easy when you've inherited your father's belongings and live in a one bedroom apartment. Through my experience inspecting other people's apartments I know how bad conditions can get, and I can only imagine what can happen if the inspections are stopped or reduced.

When I heard about our bed bug problem I did some research on the Internet, and one of the first things I noticed was news articles about 'the recent increase of bed bug infestations'. I wonder if the issue was covered by the property management trade publications. I haven't asked around but if the subject hasn't been covered it should be.

What I learned on the first web site I checked for information about the little buggers was not comforting. Once an infestation gets going it's very hard to stop. Bed bugs can live for up to 18 months without food. It only takes one male and one female to survive somewhere in the building to quickly repopulate, so they're really hard to totally eradicate. They're small and fairly flat (especially the young ones!) and can crawl through some stitching holes in furniture and things like mattresses. The one [fairly] good thing I learned was that they don't transmit diseases when they bite. That's a small consolation to ponder while you try not to scratch the bites..

Climbing into bed and going to sleep isn't something to look forward to when you know that during the night these little blood suckers will go to work, and the next morning you'll likely have groups of bites somewhere on your body. The itching usually takes a while to start and once it does it lasts for days, although regular applications of something like hydrocortisone ointment or Bactine™, or one of the many other 'bug bite' products can help quite a bit (depending the location of the bites).

The history of my experience started with a visit from our maintenance man and a guy from a pest control company. They asked to look under my mattress and the subsequent inspection turned up no bugs. That was a number of weeks ago. Recently I started to see what looked like ticks crawling across the carpet. One, then another until I it was almost daily. Each time I'd grab a piece of tape and catch it then tape it to a sheet of paper (originally to show to a pest specialist but quickly became a 'collection'!). I started hearing about people's apartments being sprayed for bed bugs here and there and soon I started feeling the itching and seeing groups of red bumps on my feet and legs.

In the last 2-3 weeks it hit my floor. The first apartment I heard about was my former neighbor Hazel. They treated her apartment, and I'm not sure about the exact time frame but [days] later she couldn't be contacted by friends or relatives (the Concord Police knocked on my door asking if I'd seen her) and later unfortunately was found deceased in her apartment (I'm going to miss Hazel).

Then Tony in the apartment across the hall from me told me (after asking him if he had any problems with bed bugs) that no, he hadn't seen any but that pest control had come in and 'bombed' his bedroom. He said that's the only room they treated and that he had to leave for several hours.

That brings me to last Friday when our maintenance guy knocked on my door and handed me three sheets of instructions regarding preparations required before the treatment of my apartment the following Tuesday at 9:30 AM. He emphasized that all the instructions had to be followed precisely prior to the appointment, I had to arrange to be gone for 3/6 hours (I'm not sure which, and the instructions said 3 hrs on one page and 6 on another) and that they were 'doing the entire building' instead of the previous approach.

I wasn't able to even start the massive preparation until Monday evening. I literally worked through the night and thought I was almost done by the 9:30 AM appointment time. The instructions included stripping the bed, discarding and/or washing everything then securely bagging the items, emptying all drawers inspecting and bagging everything, vacuuming, and removing every outlet cover (among other things like moving all the furniture away from the walls, oh and also make sure there's room for the pest control folks to work!).

Did I mention that this is a one bedroom apartment?

The way I read the instructions and the fact that the guy across the hall only had his bedroom 'bombed' led me to believe that just the bedroom & closet was to be treated and that the room had to be empty except for the mattress and box spring (and the cloth removed from the bottom of the box spring). Thus everything from my bedroom (and packed BR closet) was in the living room area.... 9:30 arrives and the maintenance man shows up, looks around, and tells me that the entire apartment is being treated and that the bedroom didn't have to be emptied just things piled in the center of the room!

By that time I was so tired and soaked in sweat I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I looked around in disbelief trying to figure out how that was even possible. After working frantically all night and being so tired my disbelief started turning into mild rage. He said "keep on working", he now had to call the property manager and talk to the pest control guys who were on the floor below to figure out how to proceed, then he left.

Did I mention that I have heart problems including high blood pressure, Type-2 Diabetes, and Chronic Depression? - Yep, and right about then I wasn't sure if I was going to have a stroke or a nervous breakdown or both..

I decided to sit down and ponder the situation while I drank what must have been going on 3-4 gallons of water by that point. The temperature was fine, the A/C was set at 68 degrees but I'm so out of shape that I was sweating buckets and my back was hurting just standing up straight. After a while I started to think about how all of this might have been prevented if the monthly inspections hadn't been stopped, and started yelling out loud "How do they expect people (with all sorts of various conditions including age, physical/mental, etc.) to get all this done in such a short time?". "Damn it! This isn't my fault, if anyone's it yours/CATCH's, and if you hadn't tried to manage this property on such a low budget this might not have happened!". @#$%^&%*!

After a few minutes (and more water) I cooled off, got up and started moving things back into the bedroom, cursing only occasionally when the sweat blurred my vision or my back twinged. I slowly worked away and around noon I was starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was also wondering why neither maintenance nor the pest guys were there yet.

The maintenance guy never returned but around 1:30 PM the pest control guys showed up dressed in their space suits. I explained that I'd done the best I could but couldn't empty one closet because there was simply no space. They were cool with that and said that they were going to be returning (every week?) for a while anyway. They told me to leave and come back at 5:30 PM.

When I returned at around 5:20 they were gone. There was no note/paper work regarding safety instructions regarding treatment residue or their return date(s) and my door was left unlocked. After a while the apartment seemed to be unusually warm so I checked the A/C unit and discovered that the filter was totally clogged with a white powder. Elsewhere there was a very light amount of residue on surfaces and the floor was slightly tacky.

I'd forgotten to call in three of my prescriptions and ran out the day before so I picked them up while I was out. I took my meds, had a bite to eat, then I started the whole process in reverse....

Today I'm happy to say so far so good. I've only seen two bugs and both of them were dead! It was nice to wake up and not see or feel any bites! I do however feel like I ran a marathon yesterday. My body is sore as is my mind. This morning I finished up returning things to their places and by noon I was relaxing watching TV. I started to nod off and was just getting up to take a nap when there was a knock at the door.

Now I rarely get visitors, or even people knocking at my door aside from maintenance and occasionally Concord Police looking for someone, so the last one I expected was a reporter and photographer from the Concord Monitor.. and guess what she was asking about?

[UPDATE 8/28/09]
: The
article "Bedbugs infest Endicott" [by Amy Augustine] was on the front page of the Concord Monitor Online today. Thankfully there were no photos of me..

Evidently another resident in the building contacted the Concord Monitor and they were knocking on doors and asking about the issue. When they asked me if I had anything to say I was more than willing to tell them my experience and thoughts to date (even though I'd answered the door unshaven and in my boxers and a T-shirt).

Afterward I did wonder what the reaction from the property management company might be, but I have to hope that they will handle the situation maturely and professionally. Frankly I was impressed when I spoke with the new property manager on the phone. He was congenial and professional, and as opposed to the manager who preceded him seems in control and not hurried. Situations like this can generate a defensive response especially when it's an organization. Then multiple egos are at play and a lot depends on the management style of the company and how far that extends down the ranks.

This is a serious situation for everyone involved, from CATCH to MB Management, and also the residents of the Endicott. With an infestation the State of NH officials could get involved. Here's a quote from the New Hampshire Department of Justice web site 'DOJ > Consumer Protection & Anti-Trust Bureau > Consumer Sourcebook' >

Landlord Responsibilities: "

RSA 48-A:14 sets minimum health and safety standards for rental property in towns that do not have ordinances that establish housing standards. An apartment does not meet these minimum standards if:

  • It is infested by pests and the landlord does not conduct regular inspections and pest exterminations [...]"

Now it's my understanding that from this point forward regular inspections have been resumed which is great news. Lets hope that the pest control company can gain control of the infestation and ultimately eradicate all the bed bugs. That goal is going to be incredibly difficult to achieve from what my research into the subject tells me, and frankly won't be achieved without the residents active participation. Attentiveness and strictly adhering to the instructions provided are essential, as is frequent and open communication between management and residents. Assistance needs to be provided to residents who need help understanding what needs to be done as well as those who need help moving items. It's also a good idea to double check to make sure the required items have been done, well before the actual appointment. I realize that's not easy when you only have two maintenance personnel who I'm sure have a pile of job tickets to attend to.

Keep in mind that the efforts required of the residents for the treatment(s) are difficult for those in good health, and this is not our fault! Communication is so important in all facets of life and the lack of communication and outreach in this case is a perfect example. With it this could have been caught in time and stopped before it turned into an 'infestation' and a major disruption in the lives of the residents affected not to mention a giant and potentially legal headache on the management/landlord side.

The Endicott has a number of residents who have special needs and require additional assistance and monitoring. The man in the apartment below mine is in a wheelchair, and I learned yesterday his mattress was covered with literally hundreds of bed bugs. I don't know what kind of living assistance he has (if any) but I have to believe that his bug problem would have been caught much sooner if someone was at least checking in on him weekly. Others have psychiatric issues that affect their ability to recognize and communicate problems such as this.
All this has to be taken into consideration, not just in this situation but to prevent other issues that can crop up in buildings that house people with special needs.

I realize that the current financial situation has an effect on everyone and that budget cuts have made an already under-resourced care system even worse. I expect that CATCH hasn't escaped the effects of the economic downturn and various budget cuts either. I think it's important to keep that in mind. But in some areas (like outpatient/independent psychiatric care & supervision as well as home health care for disabled low income people) some basic needs of our most vulnerable citizens aren't being met, and this incident is one example of that failure. Whether it's state agencies or whoever, nobody should be left to wallow in a bed full of bed bugs.

I'll try to update this post as I get more information from both residents and management. To date the only communication from management is the 3 pages of instructions delivered to me last Friday. I seriously hope there is much more to come. Back when Hodges Corp. managed us there was a steady stream of letters and other communication as well as a extremely friendly and welcoming staff. I wish that could be the case again.
I should note that yesterday afternoon I called Hodges Corp. to ask our former property manager some questions connected with this issue. She was evidently busy so I had to leave a voice message, but at the time of this post/3rd edit [3:33 PM] she's not returned my call.

[Update 8-29-09]: It's been nice not waking up with bites since they treated my apartment. I now have both the mattress and box spring enclosed in dust mite/allergy covers (@ $28 apiece..) and new [white] sheets. The white sheets will make it much easier to spot the little buggers if/when they return. I'm on constant lookout when I move around the place and wonder how long this respite will last. I'm also hoping that we're provided with instructions regarding future visits from the pest company, claims for expenses incurred, and maybe even some kind of letter from management or perhaps a visit from the property mgr.?

We'll see.. and I'll keep updating this post as events unfold.

Here are a few links to information about Bedbugs:

"Bed Bugs - Description, Life Cycle, and Habits of Bed Bugs" []
"Getting Rid of Bed Bugs - Why Is Getting Rid of Bed Bugs So Hard?"
"How to Kill Bed Bugs"
"Bedbug Bites"