BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Dogs can be trained to detect bombs and drugs, track people and keep them calm.
But in the coming weeks and months, dogs are expected to be used at the Rath Building downtown to sniff out bedbugs.
That’s part of the new pest control policy implemented this week at the county building that’s been battling bedbugs since late last year.
The county’s new rules for employees were sent out Wednesday, soon after it was determined that an employee’s belongings were infested with fleas and placed at the Rath’s loading dock with caution tape.
The new rules include limiting items employees can bring into the building, including personal items that normally adorn work spaces.
Employees are being asked to bring home all clothing, coats and sweaters every day.
They’re no longer allowed to place personal items under their desks, and their desks and work spaces must remain free of clutter.
Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychijliw said Thursday something else needs to be done, because the past nine months of work by a pest control company — more than a dozen treatments that cost approximately $3,000 — hasn’t worked.
“Now there’s a major infestation of fleas and bedbugs, I think, in the Rath Building,” Mychijliw said. “I’m embarrassed to have people here quite frankly because the first thing they ask is, well do you have bed bugs in your office? Obviously, the county’s not managing it very well.”
County administrators disagree with the use of the word infestation. The county has maintained constant contact with employees, providing advance notice for every treatment. Typically, they’re done after hours or on weekends.
“Erie County has taken steps to address the issue of bed bugs in county-owned buildings and will continue to do so should it be necessary,” according to a statement provided by Peter Anderson, press secretary for County Executive Mark Poloncarz. “Employees’ reports are promptly acted on and employees are fully informed of extermination activities prior to commencement. Employees are also provided with information on how to prepare for extermination, what to expect, and also how to eliminate bed bugs in their homes if necessary. 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. Erie County continues to take this issue seriously and will continue to do what is necessary, as necessary, to eliminate it.”
Leaders of the two unions that represent a majority of the building’s employees — CSEA and ASFCME — said they are aware of the problem, and are working with the administration on a longterm solution.
“As local leadership, along with publicly elected officials it’s our responsibility to ensure safe and hazardous free environments, whether it’s through areas of the county or within the confines of a work environment,” said Richard Canazzi, president of AFSCME local 1095. “Whether it’s a public building or private domain, the responsibility lies at the top. Every effort shall be made on all levels to give the public and employees within hazardous conditions a quick resolution.”
Said Michelle Weaver, the health and safety co-chair of CSEA: “CSEA has been working cooperatively with county administration for some time to address this situation. Obviously, the nature of bedbugs make the situation difficult to resolve, but both union and management have been doing everything within our power to try and bring this problem to a close.”