AUGUSTA — A bedbug was discovered on a desk in the city’s General Assistance office Monday, prompting officials to shut down that office and adjoining Community Services space and move the services located there to a vacant spot just upstairs at Augusta City Center.

More of the pests were later found by a bedbug-detecting dog in that same downstairs suite of offices, though City Manager William Bridgeo said no bedbugs were detected anywhere else and the dog and its handler checked the entire building.

A pest management company has been brought in to exterminate the blood-sucking bugs.

Bridgeo stressed that City Hall is not infested with the bugs, but the revelation comes following other high-profile incidents of bedbugs in Augusta. In May a bedbug infestation was reported in two privately owned Water Street boarding houses. In response, city councilors approved an emergency bedbug ordinance out of concern neither existing city nor state rules gave the city the ability to require building owners to address the problem.

A permanent, revised version of the bedbug ordinance adopted in May as an emergency is currently being considered by city councilors after a task force met and proposed revisions to the hurriedly passed emergency ordinance.

Bridgeo said bedbugs may have gotten into the City Hall office from a client or visitor but said that is “an assumption. You just don’t know” where the bugs may have come from.

“It is not an infestation. There were hardly any signs of bedbugs” discovered after the office space was inspected by pest management workers, Bridgeo said Tuesday. “Clearly, we’re catching this early.”

General Assistance services will be provided in previously vacant office space on the second floor of the city office building at 16 Cony St. Bridgeo anticipates city workers re-occupying the spot in about 30 days after the bugs and any eggs they may have left behind have been killed off.

“We closed that whole set of offices to contain them,” Bridgeo said. “Bob LaBreck (facilities and systems manager) is managing the issue, and we’re housing staff in other areas of the building, so there is no disruption to services. A pest management company is dealing with exterminating in that area of the building. Then we’re going to rip out the carpet and put in tile flooring. Hopefully that will be the end of it.”

Until one of the pesky pests walked across the desk of Sara Russell, General Assistance administrator, there had been no indication they were present. He said the city already contracts with a pest management firm to prevent problems with critters and has buildings, including Lithgow Public Library, checked periodically for bedbugs by a trained dog.

Russell, Bridgeo said, saw a bug on her desk and immediately taped it to the desk to trap it. A photograph of it was taken and it was confirmed to be a bedbug. A bedbug detecting dog confirmed the presence of bedbugs in that office and in the adjoining offices of Leif Dahlin, community services director, and Charlie McCann, director of parks, cemeteries and trees. All those offices have been moved up one floor at city center.

Dahlin is off this week anyway, Bridgeo noted, but there should be space upstairs for all five of the city staff members moved out of the closed office space until officials are certain it is safe to return to the spot once the bedbugs are gone.

Bridgeo said bedbugs have been detected in city public buildings before, including at Lithgow Library on Winthrop Street. In that instance, some of the hard-to-eradicate bugs were found inside a DVD case a library user returned. He said odds are any building with lots of public use is likely to have people who have bedbugs on them come through it at some point.

However, he stressed that no city buildings have been infested by any kind of insect or vermin or other critter during his 18 years with the city, due at least in part to a “conscientious” pest prevention program in all city buildings.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj