Sunday, October 26, 2008

Market Building Pest Control Service Gap

Lingering questions surround the exterminating service following the shut down of the Market building by the City from September 19th to October 4th. The mouse reunion stirred a media frenzy and citizen’s imaginations. Mayor Bowers likened it to a “9/11 catastrophe” but then took it back.
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Who serviced the Market building prior to Terminex and when? Through a Freedom of Information Act request it was discovered that Terminex was awarded a contract to service all of Roanoke City’s buildings including the City Market building. The term began March 14, 2008 for one year at an amount not to exceed $36,459. Payment to be made only for work actually performed.
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Superior Exterminating was the prior exterminating service contracted with the City to service the Market building. Brian Brown of Economic Development when asked for the contract stated in an email that, “There was not a contract between Superior and the City. We continued the existing contract the company had with Advantis [prior building management]. Superior was not fired [as alleged]. We let them know we were going out for an RFP and they did not show up afterward. We did not learn of the company not showing up during the time lapse until Terminex entered the facility.”
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At Superior Exterminating’s office on Tuesday, the President, Jerry McLawhorn who also serves as President of the Pest Control Management Association, was presented with Brian Brown’s explanation of Superior’s “not showing up.“ McLawhorn was less than pleased by Brown’s portrayal and made it clear that on December 17th he received a call from the City to “cease servicing” the Market building as the City was going to put out an RFP. Brian Brown when asked at Thursday’s Council meeting said, “we don’t do business like that – we would send a letter… who did he talk to?” We did not get the key back from Superior until March and that was when we realized it was not being serviced, said Brian Brown.
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McLawhorn in a statement said, “Superior worked the City Market building for 14 years – did an exceptional job providing exception pest control management service for all those years.”
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McLawhorn said they had serviced the City’s buildings since the 1970’s and contracted with Fralin & Waldron to service the Market building. He said there were mice last Summer and Fall. He said there were what he termed “conducive existing conditions” for infestation and the City was informed of this.
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There was no exterminating service from December 17, 2007, until the initial service began by Terminex on April 11, 2008. According to the vendor’s lease they pay for common area maintenance which includes, “insect and rodent treatment.”
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Also obtained through the FOIA were the weekly Terminex reports. From April 11th through May 30th the reports point to preventive treatments. The June 6th report contained the first indication of mice. “Mice” was checked off in the “Targeted Pest” box on the form and Glue Traps were placed. June 13th more Glue Traps – June 27th one mouse caught at Zorba’s. Tavern on the Market had flies from doors being open and Terminex could not find where mice were entering the freezer other than through the doorway. The July reports had little.
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August 1st report had rat traps, TIN CATS (to trap mice) set out and the check boxes mice and ants were marked along with this comment – “Big Lick Pizza food stuff on floor covered with ants. I have some video to go with this weeks ticket. This applies to all areas in Market Place, 1st and 2nd floor. I will transfer video to DVD” – Signature is illegible. (Brian Brown did not return inquiries regarding the video but the signature on this and all reports was “Vaughn”, of the City staff cleaning crew.) It is not clear what he did with them and where they were stored.
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On August 15th there was one mouse found at Lickety-Split and one at New York Subs. August 22nd had one mouse found at Zorba’s.
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On August 29th in big letters – “Did not catch anything today!”
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September 5th and 12th mice boxes checked.
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On September 19th – Three mice were found in Tavern on the Market and one in upstairs storage. The TIN CATS were empty but Terminex only found 3 TIN CATS of the 7. They found no fresh droppings except in freezer of Tavern in the Market saying droppings were several weeks old. No more reports until October 10th after the reopening.
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It is unclear whether the City read these reports or made any attempt to communicate the contents to the vendors. The vendors say the reports were never shared with them. When asked separately Monday each vendor said exterminating was done prior to their day beginning so they never saw what is alleged.
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Brian Brown of Roanoke City’s Economic Development began daily policing after the Market building was reopened. He produced one video on October 7th. When asked if the video was going to be used against the vendors, Brown said that the video was produced and shown to the vendors to help them keep their areas in compliance.
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Other FOIA documentation included an agreement dated September 26th the vendors were required to sign if they wanted the City to continue repairs on their stalls. It read, “I authorize the City of Roanoke to complete repairs to my leased premises. I understand the repairs will be charged according to the provision of the lease.”
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Eight vendors signed with two making written comments on the agreements – Burger in the Square Louis Wilson, “we need detailed billing” – Hong Kong, “There was never a contract for work to be done. I was never given an estimate for work to be done. – Nick & Sweet Things George Crump wrote, “I am signing under duress and there was never a contract done or an estimate given.”
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Nine vendors are in legal proceedings with the City regarding the charges they will incur for stall repairs. To date no vendor has received a bill. With only month to month leases being offered and the looming possibility their leases being terminated March 1, 2009, the vendors question the logic of paying for repairs.
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Last week the City Attorney, William Hackworth said he had not yet been contacted by John Fishwick, the vendors attorney, for a negotiation meeting. He further stated that he had not yet consulted with his client but stated that he thought the demands of the tenants to be “unreasonable.”
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The vendors met with Downtown Roanoke Inc. at DRI’s request Wednesday. The attorneys are preparing to meet next week. The vendors are prepared to “go all the way,” according to Anita Wilson.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Roanoke City Politics

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