OAK CREEK - Bed bug complaints are on the rise in Oak Creek, leading the city's health department to look at drafting an ordinance to help with who is responsible for their removal.

"I've identified it as a public health issue," said Elizabeth Ruder, a registered environmental health specialist for the city.

Right now, Ruder said it can be confusing who should take care of bed bugs. The ordinance, once drafted, would establish roles, responsibilities, and liabilities for property owners and tenants. Ruder said most of the responsibility to take care of bed bug issues will fall on the landlord, unless a lease specifies otherwise.

While not many municipalities have bedbug-related ordinances, Ruder referenced a similar ordinance drafted in Chicago in 2012.

"The idea was they'd draft something that would be used as a model," Ruder said.

Slow growth

As for the increased presence of these little pests ...

Myron Varin, owner of MVP Pest Control, 6940 S. Crane Drive in Oak Creek, explained he hasn't noticed a dramatic increase in calls directly associated with Oak Creek, but said there is "plenty of bed bugs business to go around" in the area, and the number of calls has been on the rise for years.

He said he typically does two to three jobs per week using both steam and sprays to get rid of them – mostly for small companies or for two-bedroom homes.

Varin said most people get bed bugs from friends who try and get rid of them by themselves. He calls the bug a "hitchhiker."

Ordinance's reach?

An idea to link two health departments together could extend the ordinance into Oak Creek's eastern neighbor.

The city is currently conducting a study on whether linking the Oak Creek and South Milwaukee health departments together would be a good move. That study launched in January and is expected to be completed by April 1.

If the merger does take place, Ruder said the ordinance may also apply in South Milwaukee, but she's not sure – much of that would likely depend on the level of consolidation between the two departments.

She said she is still working with the city attorney on the ordinance and expects to have something for the common council to review in April.

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