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'Emotionally draining:' Billings apartment complexes still battling with bed bug infestations

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Posted at 6:38 PM, Oct 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-24 11:08:58-04

Residents living at Fraser Tower, an elderly and disabled apartment complex located near downtown Billings, have been battling a bed bug infestation for months.

The infestation was first reported by MTN in March, and friends of residents said that minimal treatment has been applied and the problem continues.

Heidi Williams has friends living at Fraser Tower, and she said the problem makes her feel helpless.

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"It's emotionally draining," Williams said. "They've been a part of our lives for a long time and it is hard because you don't know what to do."

Williams said that her friends are disabled and unable to deal with the problem properly on their own. She said that the owners, a Billings-based company called Tamarack Property Management Co., have come and provided minimal treatment, but it wasn't very effective.

"Imagine having these bugs crawling around you at night," Williams said. "You have to do a lot more than just spray the apartment. They're disabled. It's almost impossible for them to take care of anything themselves."

Back in April, just a few blocks over from Fraser Tower, MTN reported on residents at Sage Tower dealing with the same issues. Sage Tower is also run by Tamarack and pictures and videos of piles of bed bugs were taken in May, almost a full two months after the original story was published.

Bed Bugs at Sage in May

Tamarack President Jeryl Schnieder told MTN News in a statement that the company is working on the problem.

"Dealing with bed bug infestations is a reality that property management companies across the world must deal with and this issue is not limited to low income or elderly/disabled properties. There is no way to immediately eradicate bed bugs once they are found, and treatment takes time and the cooperation of residents, guests, advocates and staff," the statement said.

But other Billings residents said the problem has been going on for longer than just months. Former Aware Inc. employee Morgan Fradenburgh said she heard about these issues daily at her former job.

"It's extremely saddening because these people are relying on having a safe place to go home at night," Fradenburgh said.

Fradenburgh worked with elderly and disabled clients on a day-to-day basis providing them with whatever support they needed. She stopped working there about 10 years ago, but said the same problems existed then.

“It was emotionally traumatizing, especially for the higher functioning residents, because they wanted to do everything they could to help their friends,” Fradenburgh said. "Most of them, they don't have anywhere else to go and it isn't fair for them to be living somewhere they are getting eaten alive essentially."

Sage Tower

The problem has even extended outside of Billings. In Anaconda, Heartstone is another complex for elderly and disabled that is also run by Tamarack. Current resident Mandy Maxwell lives there with her son and said they experience bed bugs almost every day.

"I was bit, most recently, two weeks ago," Maxwell said. "I don't know how to feel safe, being in flight or fight and having PTSD because I can't protect my son."

That helpless feeling has led Maxwell to becoming more outspoken, posting videos and pictures to Facebook, calling for change and better treatment.

"I don't know what else to do," Maxwell said. "It did get slightly better when I started becoming more of a headache."

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Tamarack has been operating in Billings since 1986, but was bought by Boise-based Northwest Real Estate Capital Corp in 2008. When MTN reached out to the office in Boise, the phone call was never returned.

It's a problem that has gone on for years and one that residents fear may never be truly exterminated.

"It would be near impossible to get rid of the bed bug infestation in those places, but when you're talking about lives here, it has to be worth the investment," Williams said.