BUFFALO, N.Y. – Erie County has spent nearly $4,000 of taxpayer money, so far, trying to get rid of bed bugs.
Now, one worker's union president, Rich Canazzi of AFSCME Local 1095, explains the fears of county employees he represents.
He employees' largest concern is that they could be bringing this problem home with them from work, and that they could potentially have to foot the bill for treatment.
"They're fearful. I mean, they're fearful that this is going to escalate to their own residences, family members," Canazzi said. "You know, if this was a school situation, something in a school, the school would close down. I mean, why are the measures not being met here with the county? I can't answer for that."
The County Executive's Press Secretary, Peter Anderson, sent Channel 2 an e-mail, which states that one case has been confirmed where "an employee was found to be transporting pests from home to work; this employee will not be allowed back to work until the home environment is shown to be pest-free."
While the situation at the two county buildings is being called a bed bug infestation by the Comptroller's office, the county executive's office maintains there is no "infestation." We're told that determination was made by Ashland Pest Control, the company contracted to deal with the problem.
2 On Your Side contacted Ashland, and a representative explained that although the Rath building has been treated for bed bugs before, the Family Court building has not.
Ashland said a bug was found and reported, but there were never plans in place to treat the building, since the area where the specimen was found has not been assessed yet. We're told Ashland can only treat once a sighting has been confirmed.
Ashland tells us an assessment of the Family Court building will happen Wednesday evening. The e-mail from Anderson states "APC is examining the pest found at the Family Court building; to the naked eye, it does not bear a resemblance to a bed bug, but they will confirm that."
This, of course, stands in contrast to the e-mail sent out to county employees on Tuesday. It clearly stated that Ashland Pest Control planned to treat the third floors in both the Rath building and the Family Court building.
However, now, both Erie County and Ashland Pest Control tell Channel 2 that e-mail was wrong, and that there was no intention at the time to apply treatment in the Family Court building.
As for the Rath building and the nearly 2,000 people who work there, Canazzi says the engineers, security guards, and custodians he represents are so troubled by the bed bug situation in the Rath Building that they are willing to burn through their personal and holiday time to avoid bringing bed bugs home.
County employees are also concerned about the treatments being used at the building.
Ashland did provide Channel 2 with the details on the bed bug treatment they used on the Rath Building. The product is called Crossfire Bed Bug Concentrate. The label says that adults, children, or animals should not be allowed to enter treated areas or touch treated articles until they have dried. According to Ashland, that drying process typically takes about an hour.
"Constantly, I receive phone calls to my office in regard to the bed bug issue," Canazzi tells Channel 2. "And right now, I have been referring them to the hotline currently. But it's to the point now, if it doesn't get addressed soon, the workers aren't going to want to come to work anymore."
The hotline is part of a report being compiled by the Erie County Comptroller's office to determine what county employees are seeing in their workplaces in terms of bed bugs and what could be done to fix the problem.
Canazzi and the Comptroller say treating the pests on a case by case basis is concerning because it is not a long term solution. Bed bugs are blood-sucking insects that hitch hike from place to place via their hosts. The belief is that they're being brought into the Rath building by employees and folks in the community coming into the buildings for services.
This is a list of the floors at the Rath building, and some of the services on each floor.
Sub-basement (Not Public, according to the County Executive Press Secretary):
Basement (Not Public, according to the County Executive Press Secretary):
- Real Property Tax Services
- EC Employee Credit Union
- Social Services Intake
-Board of Elections
-Bridge Access to the Main Place Mall / Alternate Building Entrance
Service/Utility Floor - No Personnel
-Social Services (Child Support)
-Social Services Administration
-Environment & Planning
-Social Services - Collections
-Department of Public Works
-Buildings and Grounds
-Information and Support Services
In terms of the report being compiled by the Comptroller's office, we're told that should be submitted to the County Legislature by Friday.