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Lewis DSS commissioner requests revision of office plans

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LOWVILLE — Plans for a new Lewis County office building should be revised to address space and layout concerns in Department of Social Services, according to the commissioner.

“I know the architects understand the need to fix that,” DSS Commissioner Stacy L. Alvord on Wednesday told members of the legislative committee that oversees her department.

Mrs. Alvord said she was happy to read that the project is being revisited by legislators. However, the most recent building layout had raised some safety concerns, including a potential for police officers to exit with unruly subjects through some high-traffic corridors, she said.

“Your concerns will definitely be addressed,” said Legislature Chairman Jack T. Bush, R-Brantingham.

When asked by Mr. Bush if the overall space allotted to DSS in the building plans would be adequate, Mrs. Alvord said it would, but only if the One-Stop Career Center would not be moved into the new building.

While that would be an option, including the center with the rest of the DSS offices could allow for a more efficient set-up, possibly involving a single reception area.

DSS and the One-Stop Career Center are both in the outer Stowe Street office building, but they utilize different entrances and, thus, have separate waiting areas.

A new office building may even allow for some shared reception space or other efficiencies with Office for the Aging, Mrs. Alvord said.

On the county’s behalf, Bernier, Carr & Associates, Watertown, in 2011 designed a three-story building with an unfinished top floor dedicated solely to future needs that was to cost roughly $10.4 million, along with a proposed $2.1 million renovation project at the current DSS building. Under that plan, most departments in leased offices, along with the DSS and dispatch center, were to move into the new building, while the mental health clinic was to move from leased space at the Lowville Commons on South State Street into the space vacated by DSS in the existing office building.

A $928,038 HEAL NY grant was intended to help renovate the new mental health clinic space, but the county last year privatized the clinic and had to relinquish the funding.

That project was effectively put on hold in early 2012 as ongoing budget difficulties and projects such as an emergency radio system upgrade took precedence. Legislators on Monday asked County Manager David H. Pendergast to update project plans and financial information after hearing that Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services has expressed interest in the former St. Peter’s Catholic School on Shady Avenue. Most of that building is filled with several county offices, some of which would be difficult to relocate into other existing buildings in the Lowville area due to space requirements.

“Every building we’re renting or leasing is for sale,” Mr. Bush said.

Mrs. Alvord at Wednesday’s meeting also commended Keith A. Lyndaker, who primarily has handled DSS cases as assistant county attorney over the past three years.

“He’s been a wonderful asset to the department,” she said.

Mr. Lyndaker has been tapped by County Judge-elect Daniel R. King to serve as his court attorney.

While as many cases as possible will be pushed back to February to provide time to find a replacement, Mrs. Alvord said County Attorney Richard J. Graham will have to pick up those that need more immediate attention.

Mr. Graham has already interviewed some candidates for the soon-to-be-vacant post and will continue until he finds a solid one, Mr. Pendergast said.

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