Share This Page

Brownsville building owner to be cited for bugs, other problems

| Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, 12:21 a.m.
Tribune-Review
An exterior of the former National Deposit Bank Building located at 100 High Street in downtown Brownsville that now houses Brownsville Apartments taken on November 28, 2012. Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Tribune-Review
An exterior of the former National Deposit Bank Building (center) located at 100 High Street in downtown Brownsville that now houses Brownsville Apartments taken on November 28, 2012. Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Tribune-Review
An exterior of the former National Deposit Bank Building (right) located at 100 High Street in downtown Brownsville that now houses Brownsville Apartments taken on November 28, 2012. Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Tribune-Review
An exterior of the former National Deposit Bank Building (center) located at 100 High Street in downtown Brownsville that now houses Brownsville Apartments taken on November 28, 2012. Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review

Brownsville officials will cite the owner of an apartment building that houses low-income elderly and the handicapped for failing to clean up a bedbug infestation that tenants said the landlord has ignored despite their repeated complaints.

Councilman Jim Lawver said residents of the Brownsville Apartments told borough authorities that owner Robert Arthurs of Charleroi has not responded to their complaints about the bugs, the leaking roof or the broken elevator.

Lawver said the building code requires property owners to remedy any insect infestation and correct other problems that fall under the building code.

Arthurs did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Lisa Wolfe, a spokeswoman for Housing and Urban Development in Philadelphia, said the agency is investigating the complaints.

She said HUD was unaware of the bedbug issue until Wednesday. Bedbugs are parasitic insects that feed on blood. Their bites create itchy welts on the skin.

HUD had been informed of the roof and elevator problems. Wolfe said the agency contacted Arthurs Nov. 15 and asked how he planned to correct them.

“To date, all our requests for information have gone unanswered. Obviously, he needs to address and take care of some things,” Wolfe said.

Lawver said officials from Uniontown Hospital called him two weeks ago and refused to discharge a patient who lives in the building until the problems are corrected. He said the borough fire department has responded to numerous calls for help from elderly and handicapped tenants.

“The fire department gets calls for assistance to help older people down the stairways,” Lawver said.

HUD bases rent on a person's income and sends payment directly to the landlord.

“Tenants have called here and said he will not answer their calls,” Lawver said. “Our code enforcement officer got a call, and Arthurs said he's taking care of it. People call and he'll threaten them with eviction if they complain too much.”

Once the citation is filed, Arthurs has 10 days to respond. Lawver said fines can range from $100 to $1,000.

Lawver said code enforcement officer Ed Nicholson hasn't been able to enter the building to conduct an inspection because Arthurs will not give permission.

“We can't force our way in,” he said.

Brownsville has dealt with previous problems at the century-old apartment building, a former bank.

In December 2010, the building's boiler broke, leaving tenants with no heat. Arthurs distributed space heaters, but repairs on the boiler weren't completed until the following March, Lawver said. HUD regulations require that temperatures in public housing be maintained at least 68 degrees during cold weather. Temperatures were recorded at 57 degrees in 2010.

“We kept citing him, citing him, citing him until he was convicted,” Lawver said.

Arthurs pleaded guilty in 2011 to a charge of failing to maintain a central heating system and was fined $100. District Judge Mike Defino Jr. dismissed 17 other charges.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.