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Lewis County to rent more space at Lowville Commons for Office for the Aging

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LOWVILLE — With no answer yet as to whether Lewis Lanes will be feasible office space for Lewis County, the legislative Buildings and Grounds Committee has approved spending $12,000 for one year to lease additional space in Lowville Commons for the Office for the Aging.

Under the agreement, pending approval of the full Board of Legislators on April 1, the county would take over approximately 900 square feet in the front portion of the upper floor of the building at 7550 S. State St. That space was vacated last summer when accounting firm Hirschey & Associates relocated to Shady Avenue.

The Office for the Aging operates in cramped quarters in other sections of the same floor.

The county has been in negotiations with the property owner, Lowville Common LLC, since last summer. The $12,000 agreed price is less than half what the space was marketed at last year, county officials said.

Committee Chairman Philip C. Hathway, R-Harrisville, explained that one employee, an accountant, currently is using what used to be a closet as her office space.

“It’s not just the employees that need more space,” he said. “We have to have the space to provide services to our senior citizens.”

Some of those services require a more private setting than the current office floor plan can provide; for some workers who share space, discussing financial matters or taking phone calls is difficult.

Space restrictions also have deprived the staff of a private break room. Instead, employees take breaks and eat lunch at a table in the main room, where visitors and clients enter.

The same setup is used as a conference table.

Office for the Aging Director Brenda J. Bourgeois said the new space at the front of the building will better suit the flow of the office.

The current layout is disjointed, as several other employees are in office space down a corridor to the rear of the building.

Ms. Bourgeois presented the department’s need to legislators last summer, when she learned of the impending vacancy.

The legislative board will vote on the resolution to approve the agreement at its April 1 meeting.

Funding already was approved in the 2014 budget, according to Mr. Hathway.

Office for the Aging staff moved to the Lowville Commons building in 2013, after they lost their rental space in the former St. Peter’s Catholic School when the building was sold to the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

No strangers to moving, the staff, prior to the St. Peter’s office on Shady Avenue, worked from the Department of Social Services building on Stowe Street and, before that, maintained office space in the Old Jail Building on State Street.

If the county moves forward with the creation of office space in Lewis Lanes, a bowling alley legislators agreed to purchase for $1 million just north of the village limits on Route 26, that could be a permanent home for the employees. Office for the Aging was named as one of the departments in the county’s plan to convert the building.

Today, legislators are expected to begin reviewing requests for proposals from engineering firms to determine the feasibility of that project. If deemed appropriate, construction of that space would not be complete for at least a year.

Legislators previously had considered purchasing the Lowville Commons building after voting down an $11 million building project on outer Stowe Street.

An offer to buy the Lowville Commons was made and rejected last fall, immediately followed by the Lewis Lanes purchase agreement.

The Lowville Commons building remains for sale. The floor plan and details of the building can be seen at http://wdt.me/6WFeGF.

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