Hempstead Tax Receiver Don Clavin on Thursday called on the town to close and fumigate a town office building that is infested with bedbugs.
Employees first spotted the bloodsucking pests Wednesday and since then workers have found dozens of them crawling on furniture and scaling the walls of the building at 200 N. Franklin St. in Hempstead Village, where more than 200 town employees work and where some 55,000 members of the public pass through annually, Clavin said.
“Do what's right,” he said at a news conference on Thursday, flanked by the town’s CSEA union president, Theresa Kohutka. “Shut the building down, get it rectified, get it clean, and let these hardworking men and women come to this building in a clean, safe environment.”
Clavin, a Republican, is challenging Democratic Supervisor Laura Gillen for her seat this fall.
Mike Fricchione, a spokesman for Gillen, said in a statement Thursday that exterminators treated the affected area of the building Wednesday night and would do so again Thursday night.
Andrew Mastromarino, deputy commissioner of the general services department, which oversees the building’s operations, contradicted Fricchione’s account, saying: “There was no spraying Wednesday night,” and the first treatment would be done Thursday.
Fricchione accused Clavin of politicizing the infestation.
“This is not the first time departments, including the Tax Receiver's Office, have been notified of an isolated report of bedbugs in an office space, so it’s curious why the Tax Receiver would this time request that the entire building be shut down,” Fricchione said. “This administration does not believe in scaring the public and will continue following all appropriate protocols and procedures relating to bedbugs.”
Bedbugs are brown, apple-seed sized critters that feed on sleeping humans and other animals, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. They are hard to eradicate — capable of surviving in low temperatures and without food for long periods. A female bedbug can lay multiple eggs per day, according to the federal agency.
Clavin and Kohutka criticized the town administration for not clearly communicating with employees about the problem or what it is doing to solve it.
“That's all we ask: just a little bit of communication and a little bit of action,” Kohutka said. “There's absolutely none going on at the moment.”
Fricchione said town officials had discussed the situation and treatment plan with union leaders and department heads.
The infested building houses town departments including parks, public safety, economic development and the tax receiver's office.