The executive director of the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority said Wednesday the 176-unit Stonequist Apartments building does not have an infestation of bedbugs, as charged at this week’s City Council meeting.
“There is no widespread infestation,” said director Edward J. Spychalski.
But he did acknowledge there have been reports of bedbugs in some of the apartments as far back as July.
The Stonequist Apartments on South Federal Street is a federally subsidized housing development under the supervision of the city Housing Authority.
Four Stonequist residents attended Tuesday’s City Council meeting to express their concern and anxiety about bedbugs in the apartment building.
Teresa Grocki told the City Council she has been living in fear since Nov. 7, when she discovered she had bedbugs in her 400-square-foot apartment.
“I love my little space,” Grocki said. “I am here because I can’t sleep at night.”
“I’m scared,” she said.
Grocki said she is constantly cleaning her apartment and taking several very hot showers each day to remove any bedbugs that may be on her. She said she has had many bites.
She said her doctor diagnosed her on Nov. 10 with “acute anxiety.”
“I am now terrified when the sun goes down, and instead of a little light in the evenings to relax, I turn on the large double fluorescent lights, scared to go to bed,” Grocki said in a statement given to city officials.
Bedbugs generally shun daylight and only come out when it’s dark. The small brown or burgundy-colored bugs bite humans. However, the state Health Department does not view bedbugs as a health hazard, because while a nuisance, they do not spread disease. Bedbugs are in the same category as fleas and cockroaches in the Health Department’s eyes.
Spychalski said Wednesday his office has a total of 14 reports of bedbugs in apartments. He said eight of these turned out to be unfounded.
Six of the apartments did have bedbugs. He said three of the tenants called an exterminator “on their own” and had the bugs removed. The other three, including Grocki, did not have an exterminator come in.
Spychalski said the Housing Authority purchased two $600 steaming devices earlier this year that are designed to kill bedbugs using very hot steam.
The apartments also have a federal Department of Housing and Urban Development-approved video that shows people how to avoid bedbug infestations.
“We bought the best equipment we could buy,” he said.
He said anyone in the apartment building can use the steam units. Facility manager Gerard Hawthorne will show the tenant how the steamer works, and the tenant can sign the steamer out as often as they wish.
Grocki and some other tenants circulated a petition around the apartment building asking the management to properly treat the entire building “to rid the bedbug infestation.” The Housing Authority said it had nothing to do with the petition and sent out a letter to tenants apologizing for any confusion.
“Please be advised that no evidence of any additional infestation has been reported to the Housing Authority since the issue was first addressed,” says the letter to Stonequist tenants.
Grocki and two other tenants had an inspector from Orkin come to their apartments and check for the bugs. Kenny Watkins, the Orkin inspector, said he inspected two rooms and found bedbugs in both rooms. He said he temporarily removed a baseboard in one of the apartments and the area was infested with the tiny bugs.
Watkins said he did not declare that the entire building was infested, as some said earlier in the week. He said he would have to inspect the entire building before making such a statement.
Spychalski said he was not aware the Orkin man came to Stonequist on Dec. 5. He said there is no record of him asking permission to inspect the apartments.
“Nobody ever checked in with us,” he said.
Watkins said that he left more than one phone message for the building managers, asking them to contact him. He said his calls had not been returned as of Wednesday afternoon.
Marilyn Rivers, the city’s risk and safety director, said Accounts Commissioner John Franck talked at length Wednesday with both Grocki and Lisa Vincent, another tenant who attended Tuesday’s council meeting. Rivers said she made numerous calls to state and federal agencies on Wednesday to see how they could help the Stonequist tenants.
“We are trying to find a way to help them,” she said.
Rivers said the steam cleaners offered by the Stonequist management may be effective, but “what happens when people don’t have the capacity [to use them]?”