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WORKERS' COMPENSATION Combined bureau opens doors



Published: Wed, April 13, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Youngstown and Warren BWC staffs came together March 7.

YOUNGSTOWN -- The new consolidated Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation service center here was hailed by officials as an example of outstanding cooperation between management and union workers from Youngstown and Warren.

The service center had a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday on the second-floor of its new location in the Mahoning County Children Services Building, adjacent to the George V. Voinovich Government Center, on West Federal Street.

The total new space for BWC is 20,000 square feet, which will include the agency's new safety training and resource center.

An enclosed walkway will connect the second-floor space in the CSB building to BWC offices in the Voinovich building.

The training center is designed to help employers enhance the level of workplace safety they provide to reduce premium costs and eliminate injuries, said a BWC press release. Ten different safety seminars will be taught there.

Consolidation

Melissa DeLisio, manager of the BWC's Youngstown Customer Service Office, said the Youngstown and Warren staffs came together March 7, and the transition went well.

The BWC has been consolidating offices throughout the state, and the Youngstown/Warren consolidation was the last. The office will serve Ashtabula, Mahoning, Columbiana, Portage and Trumbull counties.

Sandy Gealy of the Ashtabula Customer Focus Center said the BWC has retained an office at 525 Lake Ave., Ashtabula, to offer services to those who cannot make the trip to Youngstown.

The BWC provides workers' compensation insurance coverage for Ohio's employers and employees. It provides insurance to about two-thirds of the state's work force.

New space

James Conrad, the BWC's administrator and chief executive officer, said the Youngstown and Warren community can be proud of the new space because it shows what can be accomplished when there is cooperation between the public and private sectors.

"By merging the Warren and Youngstown offices, we are confident BWC will improve customer service while simultaneously reducing our costs," Conrad said.

DeLisio said there are 120 workers in the combined space in both buildings with about 60 of them coming from Warren.

Jeremy Jackson, BWC public relations spokesman, said about $90,000 in income tax revenue annually will be added to the city thanks to the relocation of the Warren workers.

Jerry Faddell, BWC/Ohio Civil Service Employees Association assembly president, said Conrad worked side by side with the union to make the consolidations work statewide without layoffs.

Cost savings

Conrad noted the consolidation of the Youngstown and Warren offices will save the BWC about $270,000 in operating costs annually. The series of BWC consolidations statewide will save the agency about $5 million to $7 million a year, he added.

Mayor George M. McKelvey heaped praise upon the Youngstown Central Area Community Improvement Corp., the city's downtown development group. It was the CIC and its property committee that set in motion the plan to make the building a reality.

Mahoning County commissioners helped by borrowing $2.5 million through the sale of bonds for the project. The bonds would be paid back by proceeds from rent paid by BWC. CSB contributed $5 million it had saved toward the building.

The new facility will be owned by the county, but CIC will own the land and lease it to the county for $1 a year.

BWC will pay $12.57 per square foot per year in rent to CIC, which will pass the money through to the county. BWC has the option to renew its lease every two years and the rent amount will escalate every two years, CIC officials said.

CSB will occupy a combined total of 40,000 square feet on the building's third and fourth floors. CIC will manage and equip the property.

CSB will have its open house and celebrate its move to the facility April 28. The agency for years had been at the county's South Side Annex on Market Street.

CSB will have its own ground-level entrance with an elevator to its offices. BWC employees will have on-site parking in the lower and upper Voinovich Center parking lot.

People going to BWC will enter through the Voinovich Building, and those going to CSB will use a separate entrance and elevator at Hazel and West Federal streets.




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