Source of bed bug infestation at county building unknown

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Erie County employees on at least three floors of the county’s largest office building could be exposing themselves to bed bugs.

And although county officials said Thursday they’ve done their best to inform everyone of the infestation at the Edward A. Rath County Office Building, many employees interviewed in a variety of locations downtown said they weren’t fully aware of where the bugs were, whether they were protected or what the county was doing about it.

Turns out, they aren’t alone.

“There’s no blame to be put on anybody for them (bed bugs) being there. The blame should be put on the administration for not sharing it with all the employees and for not sharing it with the legislature,” said Legislative Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo, C-West Seneca. “Somebody dropped the ball. A memo went out. We weren’t made aware of the memo.”

The Rath Building, at 95 Franklin St., houses most major county offices and boards, including Social Services, Mental Health, Senior Serivces and Veterans Services, as well as the offices of the county executive, county attorney, health director, comptroller and thousands of others.

That memo, obtained this week by News 4, was sent out to employees at the Rath Building on Dec. 13, detailing extermination efforts on Dec. 2. The memo says the bugs were found in the south end of the Rath Building’s 2nd and 13th floors. The memo says exterminators used bait in the affected rooms, and the areas will continue to be monitored.

But there’s more. And they’re persistent.

Within the past two weeks, bed bugs were found on the Rath’s 4th floor, according to multiple sources, and confirmed Thursday by county officials.

In a statement from the county’s Department of Social Services, officials said employees were made aware of the problem, and that they were fully informed about extermination efforts.

“Employees were fully informed of extermination activities prior to commencement, with informational/educational meetings held at the Rath Building, 478 Main and 290 Main featuring speakers from the Pest Control Companies, who distributed information on how to prepare for extermination, what to expect, and also how to eliminate bed bugs in their homes if necessary,” the statement read.

The county also says they’ll likely never find out how the bugs got inside the Rath, but most believe they were transferred from the outside in.

“While there is no way of knowing the origin of the bed bugs or the extent of their infiltration, such incidents are an unfortunately common nuisance in urban areas,” said statement read. “The Erie County Department of Social Services takes this issue seriously and will continue to do what is necessary, as necessary, to eliminate it.”

The presence of bed bugs comes at an interesting time.

As News 4 reported in November, County Executive Mark Poloncarz said he wanted to move the entire department of social services out of a building on Main Street, owned by Carl Paladino, into the Rath. At the time, Mary Ellen Brockmyre, the county’s second deputy commissioner of the Department of Social Services, said 478 Main Street was in poor condition. She’s also the author of the memo to staff at the Rath about the bed bug infestation.

And yet despite those discussions, which have been on going for months, nothing has been mentioned.

“We’re going to move these people regardless, so everybody find room at the Rath Building where we can put them. You would think with that going out, we would have been told there’s an infestation at the Rath Building.”

The county also says bed bugs were found at 478 Main St. The building is owned by Ellicott Development. One of the company’s principal’s, Carl Paladino, confirmed Thursday there were reports of bed bugs found in November in two public areas. He said they were exterminated and are no longer a problem.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen county employees approached Thursday outside the confines at the Rath declined to appear on camera. Many said they’d heard about the infestation, but knew little else.

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