BEDBUGS, AND WORSE

Section: Opinion,  Page: A10

Date: Monday, December 26, 2011

THE ISSUE:


Pests persist in public housing in Saratoga Springs.


THE STAKES:


Why can't city officials be more sympathetic?





So here it is, the day after Christmas, not that the compassionate spirit of the season seems to have gotten to Ed Spychalski, director of the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority. He still doesn't seem to be at all that troubled by the outbreak of bedbugs in the Stonequist Apartments, the largest public housing complex in the city.


Mr. Spychalski has known about this menace to the public health for five months. Yet only now is he taking the sensible step of hiring an insect specialist. Housing authority employees, in turn, will be trained to thoroughly clean the apartments that have been invaded by bedbugs.


Mr. Spychalski's other plans for trying to stop an infestation that's so easily the source of allergic reactions, secondary infections, stress, anxiety and general discomfort, however, remain unclear.


But then, in his view, the very people with little choice but to live with such vermin are contributing to their own plight.


"If residents continue to do what they are doing, the problem is never going to go away," Mr. Spychalski told the City Council last week.


And what might that be?


Bringing used furniture into their apartments.


Oh, the squalor. Low- and moderate-income people living in public housing getting by with secondhand furnishings?


Earlier in the month, a tenant says, Mr. Spychalski was saying that there was no money to rid these modest apartments of bedbugs.


And if the tenants didn't like it, she quotes him as saying, they could move.


Mayor Scott Johnson has known about this problem, too. It's further complicated by its place in the bureaucratic maze -- the housing authority is funded by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, but is otherwise run by a seven-member Board of Commissioners that's appointed by the mayor and other city officials.


So, how about this for a New Year's resolution?


The city makes a determined effort to roust the bedbugs from the Stonequist and takes steps to keep them out of other public housing complexes.


The Stonequist tenants obviously could used some help replacing some of their furniture, mattresses and sofas in particular. Talk about an opportunity for charity.


More care need to be taken, too, to make sure that bedbugs aren't attaching themselves to Stonequist residents' clothing, luggage and other belongings. This is a problem that's best fought by preventing its outbreak in the first place.


Mr. Spychalski says it could cost several hundred thousand dollars to get rid of these pests.


Yet he and the others in city government might ponder the price of not doing anything. Bedbugs can't be willed away, no mater how much city officials wish they could be. Instead, they will become an even greater hazard.