OCEAN CITY – Bedbugs have caused heaps of furniture to be piling up around town, leading Ocean City officials to remind property owners how to properly dispose of the infested pieces.
The Public Works Department refuses to further collect the furniture until properly wrapped for disposal.
Bedbugs have been showing up in increased numbers in international travel and have become a minor problem in town due to Ocean City’s international population. The risk of bedbugs increase in places that have high turnovers of nighttime guests, such as hotels and motels. This puts the town at an even higher risk of infestation, due to the fact that Ocean City is a resort town mostly comprised of such facilities.
“Fortunately, it has not become a huge problem here, yet,” Deputy Public Works Director Dick Malone said.
The concerns over bedbugs arose recently when an incident erupted over whose responsibility it was to properly dispose of infested furniture.
According to Malone, a call was received in October from a local pest exterminator to inform the town that 20-plus mattresses had been treated for bedbugs and placed in an alley for collection by the town’s bulk collection program.
The caller also brought to Malone’s attention the concern over having town employees pick up the mattresses and have the bedbugs transferred onto themselves.
Once Malone spoke to Risk Manager Eric Lagstrom, the decision was made to stop the work on collecting such furniture from the streets in town.
The proper disposal of infested furniture is to wrap the items in heavy polyvinyl, shrink wrap or disposal bags prior to removal.
“We are proposing to buy bags that are big enough to put this furniture in, give them to the people, and then we will come back and pick up the things in bulk pickup … to protect my employees,” Malone said.
According to Malone, there is about 40 pieces of “stuff” to be collected currently. He requested permission from the council to supply the people with bags and collect the furniture at no charge with mechanical equipment to protect the employees and to get the town cleaned up.
The bags will be bought in bulk and will cost the town $1.77 a piece.
If a large infestation erupts, such as in hotels, “that is a commercial thing and we shouldn’t be dealing with it anyways,” Malone said.
The department is concerned over the furniture that is disposed by property owners into alleyways or the street and would like to collect those items safely and quickly.
Councilman Joe Hall questioned if the department would automatically bag all furniture disposed of or just the furniture believed to be infested.
Malone said any upholstered furniture, like mattresses, box springs or chairs, would be bagged.
Joe Hall also questioned the life span of the bedbugs, referring to the trend of vacancy in town during the winter. He asked how long they could go without food or if they can survive in different temperatures.
Malone said that through his research the bedbug could live up to a year without a “blood meal”. Also an extermination method used is to heat a building up to 120 degrees to kill them, but he has seen nothing on how the cold could kill them because they just go into hibernation.
“In all my years, I didn’t think we would be talking about this,” Council President Jim Hall said.
Councilwoman Mary Knight made the motion to accept Malone’s recommendation on the disposal of infested furniture.
Councilwoman Margaret Pillas added that this is a proactive motion, but asked that if there was a way of charging for the pickup.
Malone replied that if a separate charge were to be created that would be up to the council. A property owner would be looking at a $40 charge for removal of infested items.
Malone added that one of the department’s insurance carriers recommended to have employees educated on the matter, so that when bulk pick up is requested by a property owner then the employee would go out and examine the situation in deciding the method of removal.
“Sometimes you can tell that’s [furniture] a problem right away, but sometimes you got to get a little closer to look at it,” Malone said. “If anything is suspect, we would wrap it just to protect ourselves. But, not everything is going to have to be wrapped.”
Councilman Doug Cymek asserted that it would be easier to just require everything to be wrapped and to administer a fee.
Malone agreed, in that it would save in the act of having to make a judgment call.
“If you charge them 40 bucks, they’re just going to throw them out in the middle of the night,” Jim Hall said. “At budget time, we’ll figure out what we’ll charge for it.”
Knight amended her motion to include all upholstered furniture to be wrapped in disposal, seconded by Pillas and the motion passed in a unanimous vote.