Count the Peru Common Council among those ready to eradicate a growing pest problem in Miami County.

The council unanimously approved on Monday to give United Way of Miami County the green light to apply for grants that could help eliminate bed bugs. 
The battle won’t be easy, United Way’s Executive Director Debi Wallick said, but it’s a necessary crusade.  
“We want to take on this health initiative to see if we can get rid of the bed bugs here in Miami County,” Wallick said. “Our goal is to make sure that we live in a healthy place. We hope that by doing this we can educate the residents on prevention, treatment and detection.” 
Bed bugs are small, flat insects that feed on the blood of sleeping people and animals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reddish-brown in color and wingless, they’re about the size of Lincoln’s head on a penny –and can live several months without a blood meal. 
The signs of an infestation – blood stains on sheets, fecal spots and unexplained bites – are often present before you actually find a bed bug.
Now that the Common Council, the Miami County Commissioners and the County Council have all given United Way their blessing to move forward with grant applications, Wallick said she will arrange a meeting with Peru Mayor Gabe Greer and the city’s street and sanitation departments.  
The session will focus on ways to improve city cleanliness and promote a safer environment by creating policy on the appropriate ways to dispose bed-bug infested waste and materials. 
Funds from the grant will go toward purchasing heavy-duty trash bags and totes that the sanitation department would drop off at residences and then bring to waste management when filled. Wallick hopes this approach will reduce the number of items that people throw away in alleyways, which has been a longstanding problem for the city.  
“When a resident in Miami County has identified they’ve got bed bugs or they’re ready to dispose of some unwanted items in their home, instead of putting it in the alley, they could call the sanitation department or waste management,” Wallick said.
The group is already collaborating with the Miami County Resource Network, the Miami County System of Care Governance Coalition, Purdue Extension, Miami County Health Department and St. Vincent De Paul on the effort. 
Greer said he’s happy to help United Way join the battle, since it’s a public health issue that needs cooperation from everyone to address. In 2016, bed bug treatment was ranked as the number one health need in the county based on a study conducted by United Way’s 211 service. The unsightly insect remains a top five issue this year