Augusta City Center closes after angry man unleashes 100 live bedbugs

A man upset that he didn’t qualify for General Assistance reportedly slammed a cup of 100 or so bugs on a counter, prompting City Hall’s closure and pest control measures.

BY  STAFF WRITER

AUGUSTA — A reportedly disgruntled man slammed a cup full of live bedbugs on a counter Friday afternoon inside Augusta City Center, causing all the bugs to come out of the cup and into the office while also prompting the building’s abrupt closure for the rest of the day.

One or more of the bugs landed on a city employee in the General Assistance office space, and City Manager William Bridgeo said action was taken to try to contain and recapture all 100 or so bugs. City Center, which houses the city’s municipal offices, closed shortly after the incident; and later Friday, a pest control contractor was in the building, spraying to try to kill any remaining bedbugs.

Bridgeo said the entire facility was closed as a precaution, especially because the man might have been to other parts of the building in addition to the General Assistance office area, where the incident took place.

Bridgeo said Augusta police were called immediately and located the man. Bridgeo said he signed a criminal complaint and trespass orders against him and he anticipated the man, whose identity was not immediately available Friday afternoon, would be charged with a crime.

Sgt. Christopher Shaw said Friday evening police were still working on the case and still deciding what, if any, charges would be filed. He declined to provide further detail, including the man’s name.

The man came into the General Assistance office and asked for a form to request assistance but was told by the city staff he did not qualify, Bridgeo said he was told.

“He whipped out a cup (full of live bedbugs) and slammed it on the counter, and bam, off they flew, maybe 100 of them,” Bridgeo said.

The bugs started moving around and spreading out.

Bedbugs have been a persistent problem in some buildings in the city, and they have been found in the city’s General Assistance office previously. The bugs are brown, flat and about a quarter-inch long, with a soft, rounded look. After a blood meal, they are dark red and larger. They feed on human blood but are not believed to carry disease.

On Friday afternoon, Ralph St. Pierre, finance director and assistant city manager, sprayed Windex, which Bridgeo said was what happened to be at hand and seemed to help immobilize the pests; and he used paper towels to pick up and dispose of as many bugs as he could.

Bridgeo said the spray used by the pest control contractor to try to kill the bugs Friday should be neutralized by Monday, so people will be able to return to the building.

A bedbug detector dog service is expected to come to the building Monday morning to look for bugs. If it doesn’t find any, the building will be opened to the public as usual.

“Those dogs are amazing, so if any bedbugs are left standing, we’ll know about it,” Bridgeo said.

What will be done if living bedbugs are still in the building depends on where they are found. Bridgeo said if one or more bugs are found only within the General Assistance office area, that office suite would be closed and those services moved elsewhere. If bugs are found in other areas, those areas would be closed off as well. Bridgeo said he doubted all of City Center would have be closed Monday.

Most of the bugs landed on a counter in the office, while others fell onto the floor.

Bridgeo, a municipal manager in various communities since 1976, said he’s “never had anything as yucky as this” happen previously.

The incident occurred around 2 p.m. and the building was cleared around 2:30 p.m.

Bridgeo consulted with Bob LaBreck, facilities manager, and decided to close the building for the rest of the day.

“It made sense at that point to close the building to make sure the public or employees don’t get exposed and take (bedbugs) home with them,” Bridgeo said. “They’re nasty little buggers when they take hold somewhere.”

The man had been to City Center previously Friday, apparently to complain to the code enforcement office about his former apartment on Court Street. Bridgeo said the man apparently showed the cup of bedbugs to a manager at his new apartment building on Water Street and the manager told him he couldn’t live there, and he had to leave. That’s when the man returned to City Center to seek assistance.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

kedwards@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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