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Fleas invade, take over county Board of Elections office

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Fleas have overtaken the Columbia County Board of Elections Office at 401 State St.
September 4, 2019 04:35 pm Updated: September 4, 2019 10:48 pm

HUDSON — A flea infestation at the Columbia County Municipal Building at 401 State St. has forced the closure and emergency renovation of the county Board of Elections office.

The county Board of Elections Office at 401 State St. was closed Tuesday and remained shut Wednesday due to the infestation.

The pests have infested the office since mid-July, Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell said Wednesday. Multiple attempts by pest control workers to eradicate the fleas have been unsuccessful, and now the county is forced to renovate the office, Murell added.

Staff have been sent home and the office has been closed early on “several occasions” after the fleas were seen “hopping around” and staff reported being bitten in the past five weeks, Murell said.

The entire building at 401 State has been treated for the infestation but the fleas are concentrated in the Board of Elections office, Murell said. The building also houses the county attorney’s office, board of supervisors meeting room, veterans services, comptroller’s office and others.

The renovations will include taking out the floor and installing a new one. The total cost of renovations has not yet been determined, Murell said.

“We consider it a now emergency situation,” Murell said. “We can’t continue the way it is gong we have elections coming up. We have to find temporary space.”

The temporary board of elections office will be moved down the hall in the same building, Murell said. The office is expected to reopen Monday at its new location.

Murell said the county has not been able to trace the source of the fleas or why they can’t be fully eradicated. The fleas were tested by the Cornell Cooperative Extension and found to be animal fleas, not sand fleas, Murell said.

“All board of elections staff are attending an Election Commissioners Association conference in Saratoga Springs all this week, which turns out to have been well timed given the circumstances,” said Virginia Martin, Democratic commissioner of the Columbia County Board of Elections. “Thus I have not had an opportunity to be fully briefed on the situation. I will say, though, that it’s been an extraordinarily difficult five weeks for board staff.”

To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email to apurcell@thedailymail.net, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.