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Roach problem still bugs neighbors

A Penn Hills inspector and neighbors of a once-infested vacant house worry that roaches might be staging a comeback inside the Howard Street residence.

But officials with the Allegheny County Health Department who inspected the exterior of the house Friday said they saw no live roaches, only a few dead ones.

Penn Hills Housing Coordinator John McCafferty said he saw signs of roaches in the house during an interior inspection about 10 days ago.

That is no surprise to next-door neighbors Tom and Tiffany Johnson, who complain that the roaches migrated from the vacant house to theirs. The Johnsons have a 5-year-old and an infant.

“I’ve caulked every doorway and put down boric acid everywhere — and I still see the roaches every day in my house,” Tiffany Johnson said. “Since all of this started, I’ve never gone a full day without seeing several roaches in my house.”

Health Department spokesman Guillermo Cole credited potential buyer Cecil Cooper, of Pittsburgh, with “dramatically reducing” the number of roaches in the vacant house.

“If they have not been eradicated, they have been brought under control to the point where they should not be considered a threat to neighbors,” Cole said. Another neighbor, Cole said, told inspectors the situation is much better than in early August, when health inspectors told of finding “literally millions” of cockroaches in the house. The Johnsons and other nearby residents said roaches had migrated to their homes.

Municipal officials condemned the house in early August. The 74-year-old owner had been moved to a nursing home in July and officials could not locate the adult daughter who had been living with her.

Municipal officials planned to demolish the house, until Cooper produced a handwritten sales agreement to buy it.

At the time, Cooper agreed to pay about $1,500 and cooperate with the health department by spraying the home regularly with pesticide.

“He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do,” McCafferty said of Cooper. “He fixed the plumbing problem and started to tear some of the walls out. He’s put money into the place, but now it may have been for naught.”

Officials with InterBay Funding, a mortgage company with a regional office in Fort Washington, Montgomery County, have stepped in to collect a loan of about $65,000 the previous owner took against the mortgage.

“For that reason, the deed can’t be transferred to Mr. Cooper,” McCafferty said.

Cooper and officials with InterBay were unavailable for comment yesterday. McCafferty said the company plans to put the house up for sheriff’s sale and give Cooper an opportunity to bid on it.


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