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Residents fed up over ‘deplorable’ living conditions in low-income Jefferson City apartments


Residents in a low-incoming housing building in Jefferson City are fed up with the building's conditions.

ABC 17 News received a complaint about the Kenneth Lock Apartments, a 55 and older housing facility operated by the Housing Authority of Jefferson City.  The complaint claimed there was an “infestation of bed bugs,” with pest control having to go unit-to-unit to try and keep up with the number of requests for treatment. 

“I wouldn't put my 98-year-old mother in this place,” Richard Lilly, a Kenneth Lock resident, said. 

Sheila Thompson said she has only been living in the building since October, but she already wants to leave. 

“This is federally funded, we are supposed to be taken care of. We worked all these years to live like this? I don’t think so,” Thompson said. 

As you try to enter the Kenneth Lock apartment, the first thing you are greeted by is a broken buzzer. Residents say the broken buzzer -- which is supposed to be used by visitors to notify residents they have arrived -- has resulted in some residents not being able to get their medication and mail having to be returned to the sender.  

“Apparently it has never worked. I have had problems with UPS, FedEx, getting my medications,” Thompson said.

Inside the building, there are three posters on a bulletin board warning of bed bugs, something that residents say has quickly emerged as one of their biggest concerns.

One of the signs advises residents not to use self-treatment options. Lilly said he spent $25 on a gallon of pesticide, anyway. 

“What do they think we’re supposed to do? Wait around and get bit? Or endure a greater infestation while pest control is getting us on their list,” Lilly said. 

ABC 17 News saw two tenants whose legs were covered in what appeared to be bug bites. One elderly woman said the red marks were the result of bed bugs. The hallway guard rails and light fixtures were also littered with cockroaches. As Thompson walked down a hallway on the first floor, she stopped by one of the lights and began shaking it. Soon after, a pile of dead cockroaches tumbled out. 

“I didn’t come in with roaches, but now I have roaches. There is no reason for any of these people to live like this, getting bit by bed bugs and we just have to deal with it,” Thompson said. 

Michelle Wessler, the CEO and executive director of the Jefferson City Housing Authority, said in an email that the Housing Authority signed with a new pest control company called Rottler on April 1. She added that Rottler is working with staff and residents to treat each unit. 

“Pest control comes within a couple of days of a call related to bedbugs, they inspect to confirm and if positive, treatment is scheduled with the resident right then,” Wessler wrote.  “The new treatment is a 3-step process, 1st day they steam, vacuum up dead or live bugs, and chemical treat, two days later they steam, vacuum, and chemical again, two days later they inspect to ensure that there is no activity, if there is they treat again and return for a 4th follow-up.  This new process does not heat up the entire unit it is focused to where bugs are at.  The resident nor their pets have to leave, which helps prevent spreading because the resident does not have to leave the unit.” 

Wessler claims the roaches are a result of people constantly moving in and out of the complex, since bugs love hiding in storage boxes. She added that residents are asked to report when they see a roach and pest control will respond in two-to-three days. However, some residents claim they don’t bother reporting the issues anymore, because they have been ignored for so long. 

As ABC 17 News continued to walk through the building, it was easy to notice stains on the hallway carpets throughout the building, loose wires and a foul odor coming from the waste collection units. Tenants claim the smell is from building workers not sweeping up any trash that falls on the floor. 

Tina Davis has been living at Kenneth Lock for eight years and said the conditions have continued to get worse with each passing month. She noted how the worn-out condition of the trash chute, stains in the laundry room, and a rusty air conditioning unit that she was afraid to turn on inside her apartment.

“This is so corroded and rusted I'm scared to turn it on because of the rust that comes up from here,” Davis said. “This is hazardous to our health.” 

“Look at that,” Davis said as she pointed to worn-out carpet in her apartment. “This hasn’t been cleaned since I moved here.” 

According to the Housing Authority, the carpets were recently stripped and waxed and residents should be receiving a note about more carpet cleaning within the coming days. However, tenants' patience is running thin. 

Other complaints ranged from a lack of water pressure, weeds growing outside of the building and an inability to control the air conditioning and heating units. 

Wessler said the “lack of water pressure” is a result of when water had to be shut off on April 17. 

“I am told, they now have less pressure, as the pressure regulator had gone out and was pumping in over 100psi, as the gage only reads 100psi and it was pegged out," Wessler wrote. "The water pressure is now at 65psi where it is supposed to be. Staff told me they have not received any complaints about low pressure, if you have an address or name we will take a look first thing.  We will also put out a note to call if they are having any issues."

Article Topic Follows: Jefferson City

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Mitchell Kaminski

Mitchell Kaminski is from Wheaton, Illinois. He earned a degree in sports communication and journalism from Bradley University. He has done radio play-by-play and co-hosts a Chicago White Sox podcast.


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