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St. Lawrence County Social Services offices will split up locations

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CANTON — St. Lawrence County employees will play musical chairs as legislators gave preliminary approval Monday to moving Children’s Services in the Department of Social Services from the Harold B. Smith building to Canton Human Services Center.

The recommendation was the work of a space committee which was helped by Beardsley Design Associates, Malone. The goal is to make the best use of space, maximize revenue based on rental reimbursements and make common-sense moves.

“Our recommendation, while not perfect, is a good recommendation,” Legislator Frederick S. Morrill, D-DeKalb Junction, said.

The primary change would be to transfer Children’s Services — with about 40 employees — from the third floor of the Smith building on Judson Street to the first floor of the Human Services Center on Route 310 in a suite behind where the One Stop Career Center used to be. The remaining employees of Children’s Services would take space now occupied by the Office for the Aging, Veterans Services and Youth Bureau so they could be adjacent to fellow employees in their division.

“That’s really the best synergy,” said county planner Jason C. Pfotenhauer.

All told, the relocations would move around 60 employees.

The Office for the Aging, Veterans Services and Youth Bureau would move into space formerly occupied by the county Industrial Development Agency, which transferred its offices to a building it put up in the Canton Industrial Park.

The Children’s Home of Jefferson County — which provides foster parent services for St. Lawrence County — would move from the former IDA offices to a section of Public Health on the second floor of the Human Services Center. The county is shutting down Public Health’s Certified Home Health Agency, which is reducing its need for office space, but it will keep its clinic area on the second floor.

The affected departments were involved in the decision-making process, Mr. Morrill said.

“Their concerns were real,” he said. “We went through quite a few iterations of what might work.”

Some questions do not have answers yet, such as whether the Social Services division at the Human Services Center should have security, how caseworkers would respond to Family Court quickly, how the operations of Social Services might be affected by being in two locations, and what would take over the third floor of the Smith building.

“There’s tremendous speculation,” Social Services Commissioner Christopher R. Rediehs said. “We certainly could justify more meeting space.”

Mr. Rediehs said other offices in the Smith building are cramped, but Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire said no decisions have been made.

“There’s a lot of other pressing space needs. We have people crammed into places in this building they shouldn’t be,” she said, referring to the courthouse.

The moves might take six months because of computer networking, renovations, cost determinations and access to Family Court concerns.

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