Bed bug sniffing dog to inspect Garrahy courthouse on Saturday

Bed bug sniffing dog to inspect Garrahy courthouse on Saturday

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — An exterminator will bring a dog that specializes in detecting bed bugs to the Garrahy Judicial Complex on Saturday to inspect for bed bugs, state court administrator Joe Baxter said Thursday.

Baxter said if the dog finds any bugs, the pest control company will treat the area. The courthouse is not open on the weekend.

“It will be an enhanced effort on our part, to once again inspect the building and where necessary, if necessary treat the building,” Baxter told reporters.

The comments were made outside the Garrahy courthouse after a 90-minute private meeting inside with employees who work there, many of whom belong to a union that has demanded the building be closed.

“The employees that we talked to, still have a lot of concerns for their health and safety and that of the public,” said Jim Cenerini, a spokesperson for Council 94 AFSCME, which represents court clerks and sheriffs.

Cenerini commended the judiciary for holding the meeting, where employees heard from an entomologist and Tony Tudino, the owner of A&D pest company, which has been treating the building.

But he said another employee had come forward Thursday with a suspected bed bug bite, a photo of which he said was supplied to the judiciary. 

“While we understand and we do appreciate the court is making some strenuous efforts to eradicate the pests, the concern for health and safety go on,” Cenerini said.

The president of that union, Michael Downey, demanded earlier this week that the courthouse be closed for treatment. The union has also filed three grievances, for which hearing dates have not yet been set.

Baxter said Thursday the judiciary never considered closing the building, which houses the district court, family court and workers’ compensation court for the very busy Providence County.

“We’ve said throughout that we’ve had a finding throughout the entire run of this of five confirmed bed bugs,” Baxter said. “And by no means did we feel as though that presented any kind of infestation.”

The reports of bed bugs began in August, after people in the 5th floor hallway near family court spotted the pests on a bench, and a woman reported finding a bed bug on her purse. While exterminators treated the area, the issue was not disclosed to members of the public and attorneys who visit the courthouse every day.

“The way we’ve been doing that is through the media,” Baxter said Thursday, defending the way the judiciary has handled the situation. “We feel as though that is the best way to get information out.”

But Baxter has said he first heard about the bed bugs on August 24. The news media was not notified at that time and stories didn’t start appearing in the press until reporters started asking questions on Sept. 13.

“If it’s safe for our employees, which it is, then it’s certainly safe for those who visit and drop in to the courthouse as well,” Baxter said.

Shiina LoSciuto contributed to this report.

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