More space needed for job, family services PDF Print E-mail
Written by ALEX ASPACHER Sentinel Staff Writer   
Saturday, 24 August 2013 08:53
Wood County Job and Family Services has outgrown its building on East Gypsy Lane Road and needs additional space to operate, according to the agency's director.
Dave Wigent said he expects many programs that share the office to grow in coming years, and an expansion of the current facility will be helpful to clients and employees alike.
Several times per week, visits between foster children and their family members are conducted across the street in offices of the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities. Visits are intended to be private for the 40 to 50 foster children of whom the agency maintains custody at a given time, but JFS often does not have appropriate space available, and conference rooms are "at a premium," Wigent said.
One-third of the conference space in the building has been repurposed to create a "work participation room" where clients fulfill work requirements for welfare by performing clerical duties. Employee areas have also been restructured, with some cubicles being split or made smaller.
In addition to taking on more interns and temporary employees, the agency has added staff members recently due to an anticipated rise in clients that could be vast if Ohio expands the Medicaid program in the wake of the federal Affordable Care Act.
Wigent estimated that increasing the Medicaid income requirement to 138-percent of the poverty level could lead to 250,000 new clients across the state, though he wasn't yet able to determine the local impact. The Affordable Care Act's individual mandate imposes penalties for those without health insurance, and that could lead to another surge of Medicaid clients who are already eligible but do not apply for benefits, he said.
"We're approaching the point where a quarter of the people in the county touch the income-maintenance system. With the expansion of the Affordable Care Act, that will climb," he said.
Two options are proposed for the building expansion, one 6,000 square-feet and the other 9,000 square-feet. The current facility, constructed in 1990 for $1.1 million, is about 15,000 square-feet and is scheduled to be paid off by the end of 2015.
Wood County Commissioners would pay for the addition up front with JFS making lease payments. The smaller addition would cost $960,000, or $3,200 per-month over 25 years, plus interest.
The larger option would only be implemented if other agencies relocate to the JFS facility. It comes with an estimated price tag of $1.4 million, with a monthly lease payment of $4,800 over the same span.
The agency's funding comes from a wide variety of state and federal sources, as it administers more than 25 different programs such as Medicaid, food stamps, children's services, job training and adult protective services. It also receives local levy dollars, but Wigent anticipates state and federal allocations will pay for 90 percent of the project, with the rest in Wood County funds. but no new levy required.
"We've always been fiscally conservative. It was pretty clear that we had more than adequate funds to be able to do it," Wigent said, noting that the agency has twice asked that its levy collections be reduced or suspended, a request that's been submitted again for 2014.
"Our receipts that we'll get from the state and (federal government) are structured in such a way that we can do this without going back to the voters" for a new levy, Wigent said.
Commissioners have not approved engineering funding to design the project, but Wigent said JFS is in the process of collecting more accurate estimates to move toward that step. He hopes to have the addition finished within the next two years.

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