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TRUMBULL COUNTY Social services to move together



Published: Mon, June 25, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Three locations are being considered, all in Warren.

By STEPHEN SIFF

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- Standing in the welfare line could soon resemble hanging out at the mall.

Many of the Trumbull County agencies that provide government handouts, social services and job-search help have agreed to move into a single Warren location.

The site could include everything from training classes to resume help and a thrift store offering clothes to wear to a job interview.

A similar one-stop center in Montgomery County, held up as a model across the state, even has a food court staffed by food service trainees.

With multiple agencies with overlapping responsibilities located in scattered offices, a laid-off worker might have to visit upwards of a half dozen places to get all he has coming to him, said Thomas Mahoney director of the Trumbull County Department of Jobs and Family Services.

Veterans have additional offices to visit; senior citizens still more.

Simplifying: Putting the agencies under one roof and cross-training their staffs simplify the process, he said.

"It is a great concept," Mahoney said. "If we were a private-sector business, this would have been done 25 years ago."

Physical consolidation of the agencies -- including Ohio Jobs and Family Services (OJFS), Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) and the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) -- allows a pooled support staff and a common client reception area.

Several other agencies have signed on.

Officials envision the center as a sort of labor marketplace, where temporary agencies, military recruiters and colleges and technical schools could also set up offices.

Although the state has asked counties to consolidate social services in a one-stop setting, it hasn't offered any money to do so, leaving each county to foot the bill.

People behind the Trumbull County effort say the county could break even by charging tenants rent to cover the cost of establishing a center.

"It will be a wash," said Patti Augustine, co-owner of a Trumbull County real estate brokerage and a member of the public/private One-Stop Committee.

Most organizations which would become tenants of the one-stop center are already paying rent elsewhere, she said.

Other areas: In Mahoning County, officials planned to consolidate some operations of the Mahoning-Columbiana Training Association and the county welfare department in the Ohio Bureau of Employment Serves building on South Avenue, near Interstate 680.

The training association has had caseworkers there for nearly a year, but the long-term viability plans have been cast into doubt by the state's announcement that it will replace Youngstown's Ohio Bureau of Employment Services with a call-in center.

"If they tell us we have to leave there, at least we will have a system we can take someplace else," said Ray McAtee, director of the training association.

Offices for Columbiana County agencies are already clustered near each other, just north of the square in Lisbon.

A one-stop facility can cover a multitude of services, from a coordinated computer system to the integrated approach envisioned in Trumbull County.

McAtee said that during a recent visit to a one-stop center in Lorain County, he came across a computer lab with 20 people working on their resumes.

"Four people, from four different agencies, were in there helping them, he said. "It was kind of refreshing."

Locations: Two weeks ago, Trumbull County commissioners approved hiring an architect to review three possible locations for a one-stop center, all in Warren: Ridgeview Plaza, on U.S. Route 422 near the Howland line; 150 South Park Ave., in what is now the Trumbull County Department of Jobs and Family Services; and among several buildings owned by the county and United Methodist Church on North Park Avenue.

Between 200 and 400 people would work at the center and officials estimate they need parking for 1,000 cars.

The architect is expected to present his recommendation to the One-Stop Committee next month. It will then come before the county commissioners for approval.

"It is a good idea," said Commissioner James G. Tsagaris. "We'd like to have it done."

siff@vindy.com




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