Bed bug battle sparks protest, precautions

Bed bugs protesting
Bed bugs protesting

This story originated as a tip to the 15 Finds Out hotline.  If you have something you’d like 15 to find out, call (260) 481-1515 ext. 1610.

GENEVA, Ind. (WANE) – It’s something no tenant ever wants to hear:  “You have bed bugs.”  That’s what some people the Geneva Shores Apartments in Adams County have been dealing with since August.  The property manager said the infestation has been all cleaned up, but some timid tenants and an outspoken protestor beg to differ.  South Adams Schools has also launched precautions against the insect problem.

For the past week, in the frigid December weather, Donna Butler has been the lone protestor holding a cardboard sign in front of the Geneva Shores Apartments, a complex for low income tenants.

Butler is adamant apartment management hasn’t done enough to get rid of what she calls a bed bug infestation there.  She’s so passionate because she said her son accidently spread the bed bugs from one of the apartments to her home in the small town of Geneva.

“It’s been going on way too long,” Butler said.  “People are living here now with no furniture.  It has now spread through town.”

The issue has even caught the eye of South Adams Schools, which began spraying down buses the first week of December.

“Does it have our attention?  Yes,” said Scott Litwiller, superintendent of South Adams Schools.  “As a matter of precaution, we’ve been spraying buses with a spray that will kill those insects.”

But a different story is coming from the Geneva Shores management.  Milise Beitler said in the fall, Orkin Pest Control found four apartments with bed bugs.  They previously treated, inspected, and reported that they didn’t find bed bugs in three of the four apartments.  Just Monday, Beitler said Orkin gave the all clear on the last one.

“I’ve got documentation stating that we were cleared.  If [Butler] wants to say [it’s not], that’s her opinion but we don’t have them,” Beitler said.

Still, anonymous tenants tell 15 Finds Out that the bed bugs have spread to other apartments.  They didn’t want to speak publicly, fearing they would be evicted.

Butler and the friend of a tenant each showed 15 Finds Out what they identified as bed bugs taken out of an apartment Tuesday morning, a day after Orkin cleared another apartment.

Beitler said if they do in fact still have bed bugs, the tenants need to report them to management so they can be taken care of.

The tenants’ concerns have made it to the Adams County Health Department for the second time since late summer.  After complaints in August, the health department inspected three Geneva Shores Apartments.  It found bed bugs in one and ordered the complex to implement the appropriate remedies.

After what the health department calls a quiet couple months, more complaints came rolling in at the beginning of December.  On December 5, health department leaders sent a letter to the complex, writing that the problem needs to be fixed.  Officials are currently planning another inspection at the apartment complex.

“We feel it’s important that when one apartment is infested that the apartments on either side, if that’s the case, are treated,” said Terry Smith, environmental director for the Adams County Health Department.  “What they’re doing with Orkin, I feel that they’re doing a very good job at this point in time.  It doesn’t mean that [the bed bugs] are going to be easily controlled though.”

In its letter to Geneva Shores, the Adams County Health Department threatened condemnation and evictions if the bed bug problem isn’t fixed.  Although, Smith doesn’t think such drastic measures will be necessary.

It’s something Butler, the lone protestor, said she wouldn’t want either.

“I don’t want these people homeless.  I don’t want them evicted from their homes.  I want the owner and the manager to clean it up,” Butler said.

Beitler said Orkin inspects and treats the Geneva Shores Apartments once a month.  She said the complex’s maintenance man inspects every apartment once a week.

At this time, there have been no reports of bed bugs in South Adams Schools.

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