December 26, 2013

Emergency cleanups ordered on High Street

Officials: Bed bugs, danger and unsightliness forced action

by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune

---- — Logansport officials ordered emergency cleanups at four properties on High Street Monday afternoon, one of which arose from bed-bug-infested furniture placed on the curb.

George Franklin, Logansport code enforcement officer, said he received a phone call from Logansport Mayor Ted Franklin Sunday afternoon regarding furniture on the curb at 1224 High Street.

On Monday, George Franklin arrived at the property to take photographs. He said a woman exited the house and told him the furniture was infested with bed bugs and that she had set it out to be picked up during the next trash pickup.

George Franklin said after discussing the matter with Mayor Franklin and Logansport Community Development Director Chris Armstrong, the three determined an emergency cleanup should be conducted on the furniture.

Leaving the furniture would have created a health hazard for trash pickup workers, George Franklin said — the insects can survive in cold temperatures for several days.

The National Pest Management Association describes bed bugs as quarter-inch long, oval-shaped and red-brown in color. The parasitic insects feed on blood with bites that cause skin rashes, psychological effects and allergic symptoms. They typically live in small crevices near human environments.

The insects and their eggs are usually spread by clothes, luggage and furniture moved from an infested area. They do not live or travel on the skin of hosts and generally feed at night when hosts are asleep.

George Franklin said employees of the Logansport Street Department used a bulldozer to clean up the furniture, allowing them to avoid coming into contact with the insects.

Since taking over as code enforcement officer about two years ago, Franklin said he has dealt with about four properties in Logansport that had been infested with bed bugs.

While the infested furniture has been cleared from the front lawn, the problem is not yet over for the residents or the property owner, Franklin said.

“They’re going to be in the carpet,” he said of the parasites. “They’re going to be in the drapes.”

Franklin said the property is currently being rented out by an out-of-town owner. Cass County’s GIS mapping system lists the owners as William and Ginger Butner of Tipton.

Eric Eldridge, an environmental health specialist with the Cass County Health Department, said the property will have to be addressed by a certified exterminator.

“There’s a lot of prep work that needs to be done for bed bugs,” Eldridge said, adding that all furniture, bedding, linens, clothing and other possessions will have to be cleaned and isolated before extermination can begin.

After the extermination, Eldridge said the health department then conducts a visual inspection of the property.

Following the cleanup at 1224, the city also carried out three other emergency cleanups on High Street at 1128, 1127 and 1114. While these three weren’t ordered because of bed bugs, Franklin said they still required emergency action.

Photos Franklin presented to the Logansport Board of Public Works and Safety Tuesday morning depicted furniture, trash and other objects strewn about the front lawns of the three properties. In an interview after the meeting, Franklin called the scenes “unsightly and unsafe.”

Normally, proper notification and time is required for violators of the city’s trash regulations. However, an ordinance allows for emergency cleanups in situations of “serious threat of imminent danger to public health, public safety and/or the wellbeing of the public as determined by the community development director.”

“When it’s on the front of the house or the curb, we know it will be sitting there for at least another week,” Franklin said, “so we made the decision.”

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or Follow him: @PharosMAK.