Darren Doyle, story and photo:
Edmonson County Fiscal Court is dealing with a pest infestation at the county courthouse thanks to blackbirds and bed bugs, both of which bring safety and health hazards to the public.
Judge Executive Wil Cannon said the blackbird problem was discovered a couple weeks ago, where apparently the birds had found access to the courthouse attic through some nooks and crannies outside. He said it was unclear as to how long the birds had been nesting there, but the waste and droppings was severe. It appeared as if they'd been there for an extended period of time.
The major health risk from the birds is a lung condition called histoplasmosis that can negatively affect those with weak immune systems. While medical experts say that the condition rarely requires treatment, it's a situation that the county wanted to remedy as quickly as possible.
"We took bids for the cleanup and removal of the birds and their mess," said Cannon. "A local company was awarded the bid and they're sure they can greatly reduce the risk of something like this ever happening again."
Judge Cannon said the cost of taking care of the blackbird problem will cost the county somewhere around $4,000.
Most folks aren't that worried about blackbirds, but when "bedbug" is mentioned, people start to itch. According to court officials, the keen eye of courtroom security officer Paul Miller is credited for noticing bedbugs crawling along a courtroom bench yesterday during district court.
Edmonson County Circuit Court Clerk Tanya Hodges said that Security Officer Miller noticed the creepy-crawly pests as court was winding down. He immediately reported the parasites to courthouse officials and the courtroom was cleared. Court cases for the rest of the day were moved to the old upstairs courtroom where fiscal court is held.
Court officials said they heard reports that someone appearing in court was identified as having the bugs on their person but those reports could not be confirmed. It's also possible the bugs could've been brought there by someone in previous court sessions and they were just noticed today.
The courtroom was closed and an extermination company was called in immediately. It remained closed today as well.
"The exterminators said everything will be fine and that there shouldn't be any need to worry," said Clerk Hodges. "I've been working here since 1987 and I've never seen anything like this before."
It was unclear at this point what additional costs that the county would face for the biting bandits, but Judge Cannon said the Administrative Office of the Courts would likely pick up 2/3 of the tab for blackbirds, which will help the financial burden to the county.
"You just never know what's going to happen around here," said Cannon. "I don't know that I've ever heard of anything like this in a courthouse before."