LACONIA — Although bed bugs pose no risk to public health, their proliferation poses a challenge to landlords in a city where rental units represent 44-percent of the housing stock and house four out of every 10 people.
Deputy Fire Chief Kirk Beattie, who serves as the city's health officer, said that he fields two complaints about bed bug infestations each month. However, landlords who rent significant numbers of units claim that bed bugs are more common and widespread than the number of formal complaints suggests.
Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to eradicate. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recommends "integrated pest management," or IPM, which applies various techniques and products to clean and disinfect mattresses, pillows and bed linens while sealing cracks and crevices on floors and walls. However, landlords claim that they cannot rely on tenants to go to the lengths IPM requires. Alternatively, appropriate pesticides can only be applied by professional pest control services at considerable expense, generally beyond the means of tenants.
Shawn Riley, Beattie's predecessor as health officer, said that heat is one of the most effective means of ridding buildings and apartments of bed bugs. He said that bed bugs cannot withstand exposure to 117 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes or more. But, applying that degree of heat to all the places where bed bugs hide requires maintaining an ambient temperature of between 140 and 160 degrees for between four and eight hours.
Both Riley and Beattie stressed that because the process is hazardous it should only be undertaken by experienced professionals using proper equipment. Apart from posing a fire hazard, he explained heating a sealed building or unit to the necessary temperature may also cause a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
They said they have directed cautioned against using any type of fueled heating device, particularly the so-called "propane salamander," which is commonly used to warm construction sites in cold weather. Beattie said that using propane salamanders to eradicate bed bugs is contrary to the fire code.
Landlords contend that engaging professional services or purchasing preferred equipment to heat multi-family buildings are prohibitively expensive. One recalled that an exterminator quoted a price of $1,000 per unit to treat a building, which required treatment at least twice a year. The cost, he said, would add $40 per week to the rent of the units, effectively pricing them out of the market. Moreover, when the exterminator was asked about the warranty on the service, he answered that it was good only until he left the property.
The equipment preferred by the Fire Department is an electric heating unit powered by a generator operated from outside the building, which one landlord said costs approximately $75,000. He estimated that five of these devices operating five days a week would be needed to eradicate the bed bugs from the city's rental units.
Landlords question the prohibition again "propane salamanders," insisting that they are designed and intended for indoor use and, if operated properly with close supervision in tandem with carbon monoxide monitoring, do not present an unacceptable risk to public safety.
Then again, neither do bed bugs.
Last Updated on Thursday, 26 June 2014 11:44
LACONIA — A handful of residential landlords attended yesterday's Police Commission meeting yesterday to voice their displeasure at the confusion surrounding the department's policies on "civil standbys" and when officers will accompany landlords into a tenant's home.
Landlord Harry Bean said he has owned 80 apartments in Laconia for 40 years and in many cases he has had problems accessing his buildings because of lack of tenant cooperation. He said many of them pretend not to be home when they are, despite being given the required 24-hour notice that he was coming by to fix something or to have access to his building.
"I've been sucker punched twice by tenants recently," Bean said, saying that if the police weren't going to accompany him into an apartment when he needs them to, then he will start to carry a gun for his own protection.
He said he would recommend that all landlords arm themselves when dealing with problem tenants.
He also told the commissioners that if he was forced to go alone into a problem tenant's apartment, he "was the one that would be coming back out unharmed."
The discussion about a police officer's role in so-called civil standbys was triggered when police management disciplined an Officer Brandy Ennis, who entered an apartment with a landlord after the tenant had been given 24-hour notice. The officer made sure the apartment was empty of people before the landlord went into the house to access the basement to do some maintenance on the furnace.
The landlord had called the police because there had been a previous confrontation with the tenant and he was in the process of evicting him.
At the recommendation of her supervisor, Ennis was disciplined for entering the apartment without speaking first to the tenant or contacting her supervisor.
Chief Chris Adams assured Bean that the police would still respond to all his and other landlords requests for civil standbys and that each incident would be handled according to the circumstances at the time.
Debbie Valente, the president of the N.H. Property Owners Association, said she thought the commission was going to determine and announce the disciplinary action taken against Enis yesterday but commission Chair Warren Clement said the matter was a personnel issue, that he wasn't going to talk about it in public, and that the officer and her attorney had been notified as to the determination.
Valente wasn't mollified and accused the police off "making it up as they go along." She said the landlords were being mislead by the police, to which Adams replied that the police have to follow the law and cannot violate the rights of the tenants.
When someone suggested the law should be changed, Clement reiterated that the police "don't make the law but they have to follow it."
As to the determination of the commission regarding Enis punishment if any, the hearing continued in a non-public session held last Friday at 9 a.m. that was initially attended by The Daily Sun.
When the commissioners asked Enis attorney if they were to continue in a public session, he said he and his client had no opinion, so the board transitioned to a non-public meeting and The Daily Sun was asked to leave.
Enis's attorney said Adams had recommended a three-day unpaid suspension for Enis but the commission hadn't made any decision at potion of the meeting he attended. He said the commissioners agreed that if they did decide to suspend her they would not impose the suspension for 30 days to give his client time to decide if she would appeal to the Belknap County Superior Court.
At press time, it is not known what final action the commissioners took.
Last Updated on Thursday, 26 June 2014 11:39
GILFORD — Due to what appears to be a lack of interest on the part of the summer residents, selectmen decided not to have the annual summer town forum this year.
For the past two years, the number of people who have attended the forum has been less than the number of administrators and elected officials who have had to be present.
Selectboard Chair John O'Brien suggested the town skip it this year and "see what happens."
Summer town forum has been held as a way for department heads and elected officials to keep the summer residents abreast of recent developments in Gilford as well as a way to listen to their specific concerns.
In the past, topics as wide-ranging as trash pickup and parking at the town docks to heated discussions about property values have been the norm. In the mid 2000s, the meeting room at Gilford Town Hall was overflowing with residents.
Last year, less than 10 residents attended the forum and none of them had any questions for either officials or department heads.
Finance Director Geoff Ruggles, who is a long-time Gilford resident, said he thinks Summer Town Forum began in the early 1990s when a property revaluation triggered some concerns among the summer residents.
Selectmen reiterated that any town resident is welcome to come to any selectman's meeting or to contact town hall if they have any specific concerns.
In other town business, despite complaints from a few Potter Hill residents, selectmen said covert speed monitoring showed that over a 36-hour time period at some point last week, 183 cars traveled over Potter Hill Road.
Data showed the average speed was 23.79 mph and the fastest speed recorded was 43 mph. Fifty percent of the cars were traveling at speeds of 25 mph or less and 85 percent were traveling at speeds of 36 mph or less. The posted speed limit is 25 mph.
Selectmen said they have asked the Gilford Police to continue to monitor the road.
Department of Public Works Director Sheldon Morgan got approval to paint "SLOW" and "25 MPH" in four spots on the road at a total cost of $160. In addition, selectmen recommended painting the yellow center line throughout the length of the road and repainting the white fog lines on each side.
Selectmen also voted to appoint former selectmen Kevin Hayes and Larry Routhier as temporary alternate members to the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
The temporary appointments became necessary earlier this week, when two of the regular members recused themselves from hearing a special exception request from Arbo Ministries regarding the former Guild Farm on Curtis Road.
The recusals left four members to decide the request and the applicant said it would prefer to have a full board of five members.
O'Brien said Hayes and Routhier have agreed to serve.
Last Updated on Thursday, 26 June 2014 01:09
LACONIA — Rep. Dennis Fields (R-Sanbornton) praised Belknap County Commissioners and county staff at Wednesday's meeting of the commission and said that he hopes that there will be better relations between the Belknap County Convention and the commissioners in the future.
Fields, one only three Republicans who last week supported the request of the commissioners and the Belknap County Jail Planning Committee for a $3 million bond issue for improvements to the jail and funds for a schematic design for a new jail, also thanked Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Dan Ward for his efforts on behalf of a new facility.
He said that alternatives which were proposed by opponents of a new facility, such as shipping prisoners to other counties, ''aren't a good idea.'' The proposed bond issue, which required a two-thirds majority, failed to garner even a majority, losing 9-7.
''I was very proud of the staff this year and I hope we can get back we can all communicate. I believe it was more the delegation's fault than the commissioners. The way the delegation acted made us all look bad and some of us aren't. The problems we had were more no the delegation than the commissioners.'' said Fields.
He said that he thinks it was wrong to separate one political party from another in deliberations by the county convention and said he would like to see a delegation that does its job in a non-partisan manner.
Fields, who served 11 terms in the legislature in another county before moving to Belknap, said that he decided to run for re-election to what would be his fourth term in Belknap County, where he represents Sanbornton and Tilton, because he thinks that compromise and mutual respect are needed and that he has always liked working with others to improve government.,
''We work best when we work together and sit down and compromise and that's what I would like to see brought back to the county,'' said Fields.
He then proceeded to criticize an idea championed by Dave DeVoy, who is running for the Republican nomination for the seat being vacated by County Commissioner Ed Philpot (D-Laconia), which called for converting a part of the Belknap County complex, currently used by commissioners and county staff, into a women's jail, saying that the plan was ''nonsense'' and would never work.
DeVoy, who lives in Sanbornton, was in the audience at the meeting but did not respond.
Commissioner Stephen Nedeau (R-Meredith) thanked Fields for his comments and said that he too was proud of those who work for the county. ''We have one of the best staffs in the state,''
Commission Chairman John Thomas (R-Belmont) also thanked Fields, who then proceeded to wish him well in the upcoming Republican primary in which Thomas will be opposed by Rep. Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton), who has been critical of the commission and of the county jail planning process.
County Administrator Debra Shackett, who has been charged by the Jail Planning Committee with contacting the Ricci Greene consulting firm, which developed a conceptual plan for a 180-bed, 94,000-square-foot community corrections facility, said that she has talked with the firm and that a meeting will be scheduled in the near future.
Last Updated on Thursday, 26 June 2014 01:06
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