By Joe Johnson
The Athens-Clarke County Courthouse will remain closed at least through the weekend as officials work to combat an infestation by bedbugs.
As the result of a Judicial Emergency declared by Superior Court Chief Judge Eric Norris, the building at 325 E. Washington St. will have limited access from Wednesday through Friday in order to treat the facility for insects.
As a result of the judge's order, jury trials and hearings have been canceled and courthouse access is being limited to the filing of protective orders and other emergency issues.
County Manager Blaine Williams has ordered the closure of workstations for non-judicial offices, including those of Superior Court, Municipal Court, Probate Court, Magistrate Court, Juvenile Court, State Court, the Clerk of Superior and State Court, the Sheriff’s Office, the Solicitor General’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, the Tax Assessors Office, Central Services Records and Mail Room, and the Tax Commissioner’s Office. The Courthouse parking deck will remain open as normal.
For more information on services offered, visit individual office websites at www.accgov.com or contact individual offices through phone or email contacts listed at www.accgov.com/directory. Emergency contact information for all offices will also be posted at the Courthouse entrance.
After the Athens-Clarke County Central Services Department was made aware of possible bed bugs in areas of the building, it contacted an on-call pest control company for a full assessment. Once the company confirmed the presence of bed bugs, the Central Services Department and Human Resources Department recommended the temporary closure of the Courthouse to Chief Judge Norris in order to provide the necessary multi-day measures to treat the spaces. Although bed bugs were only found in areas on three levels, the recommended treatment involves closing and treating the entire facility.
Tentative plans call for treatment through the weekend with a re-opening on Monday, February 20. Additional entry measures may be required for employees and visitors once the building is re-opened.
Due to the number of visitors and employees who visit the Courthouse daily, the source of the bed bugs is not known.
Bed bugs are small, flat, parasitic insects that cannot fly. They are usually transported from place to place as people travel. Bed bugs can be transported from many different sources, including schools, hotels, and used furniture.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bed bugs are not known to spread disease and do not usually pose a serious medical threat. Bed bugs have been found in five-star hotels and resorts and their presence is not determined by the cleanliness of the living conditions where they are found.
For more information on bed bugs, visit resources from the CDC (www.cdc.gov/parasites/bedbugs), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (www.epa.gov/bedbugs), or the Georgia Department of Public Health (dph.georgia.gov/environmental-health/insects-and-diseases).