AUGUSTA — A local businessman who officials said wishes to remain anonymous has offered to pay up to $20,000, if others match his contribution, to try to eradicate bedbugs from the city.

Someone whom Mayor David Rollins described as a community leader, Augusta resident and business owner committed up to $20,000, in the form of a challenge grant, to eradicate the insidious blood-sucking pests. As a challenge grant, the money would be provided only if others come up with a matching amount.

“A very prominent community leader wanting to address the bedbug issue I think is awesome,” Rollins told city councilors at their Thursday meeting. “Let’s stay on it and see if we can get other people to jump in on his good deed.”

The city has seen a prevalence of bedbugs in the last couple of years, both in some apartment buildings and boarding houses and in public facilities including Augusta City Center, Buker Community Center and Lithgow Public Library.

Last month 74-year-old Charles Manning dumped a cup of roughly 100 live bedbugs on a counter in the General Assistance offices at City Center because, he told a reporter, officials weren’t adequately addressing his concerns about substandard housing, including a bedbug infestation at his former apartment. Manning has been charged with assault and obstruction of government administration for dumping the cup of bugs.

Rollins said an Augusta businessman, who at least for now wishes to remain anonymous, read a recent newspaper article about the bedbug situation in Augusta and felt compelled to offer his money both to help address the problem and to prompt others to contribute as well.

“He saw it in the paper (Thursday) and stepped forward and said, ‘I’ve got $20,000 to commit to a fund to eradicate bedbugs, and I want other people to step forward,'” Rollins said. “He knows $20,000 won’t do it. But he believes if we get locals to match his donation, we can do it. I think it is about community pride; that’s where it came from.”

Rollins said Friday he plans to meet next week with the city staff and local businessman and community activist Roger Pomerleau, who is speaking on behalf of the potential donor of the $20,000, about the donation and what could be done with the money, if the matching funds are raised.

He said possibilities could include establishing a fund to help provide temporary housing for people whose residences are infested with bedbugs who have no other place to go while their residences are treated, or helping fund the extermination of bedbugs when someone can’t afford to pay for those services.

“We have to decide what would be the best placement of those funds,” Rollins said. “Maybe a fund for people who need to bridge a time period, to get uninfested themselves. I don’t know what form it will take right now. You don’t want to spend the money to eradicate them, to find out in 90 days they’re back. So it’s going to take some thoughtfulness.”

At-Large Councilor Marci Alexander said the potential donation is “a very nice offer.”

Rollins said he doesn’t know whether others in the area will contribute money to match the potential donation, but he and the donor are hopeful they will.

“I would think if it gets off the ground, it would be a consortium of businesses,” Rollins said. “What he’s trying to do is motivate others, so everybody puts in a little, so we get a lot. Because it’s a big problem. It is really preliminary, but it is certainly a kind gesture and a great cause.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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