UPDATE: Plan approved to consolidate JFS, Children Services in one location

MARIETTA, Ohio (WTAP) - UPDATE 4/24/19

Washington County commissioners approved a plan at their weekly meeting on April 18 to consolidate the recently-merged Job and Family Services and Children services into one location.

After months of discussion and cost studies done, JFS will move in phases from its current location on Gilman Ave to the children services home at 204 Davis Avenue.

The move to Children services, along with necessary future renovations, will cost around an estimated $400,000, most of which will be paid for with federal dollars.

"The cost savings that are achieved through a consolidation," Freimann said, "one receptionist instead of two, three photocopiers instead of four, will bear out over time. We anticipate saving about $135,000 a year through the consolidation."

Freimann hopes to have all essential offices moved over by the end of the year but the agency can't fully move without the board of elections moving out.

Dennis Sipe, board chair of the Board of Elections, which is currently located at 204 Davis Ave, said while they are open to working with the commissioners on a possible move, the decision to move to a new location comes down to them.

"If they're telling us that we're moving and it's to a place that we don't find appropriate," he said, "I'm certain we're going to be discussing among ourselves and as well as with our legal representative of whether or not a court is going to have to tell us to do that."

He added the new location needs to meet their needs and requirements for storage and accessibility.

"We would work with them to the extent that we can accomplish a move if necessary that meets our needs and is lawful," he said.

The Board of Elections will be having an outside firm conduct a study of 202 Davis avenue, a prospective location to move to, later this week to see what changes have to be made to make the site suitable and how much money it would cost.


UPDATE 3/28/19

Plans to consolidate Washington County's Job and Family Services and Children Services to one location are moving forward with the final decision falling to the county commissioners.

The commissioners received updates from JFS director Flite Freimann about children services financial state so far this year.

Freimann says children services will not need additional funding for the first quarter of this year as he previously thought, stating the agency is fiscally sound to start the year.

He also addressed the two options he presented a few weeks ago to combine JFS and Children Services under one roof. The commissioners can either move Children's Services over to the JFS office on Gilman Avenue and be at capacity there or move JFS to Children Services at 204 Davis Ave, which has more space, is more equipped for both agencies' needs and has room for future expansion, but possibly at a higher cost.

Freimann believes the best option forward is to move JFS into the children services building, however, the Board of Elections as well as the commissioners would have to move.

The commissioners are studying 202 Davis Ave, just down the street, as a possible new home for the Board of Elections. That building currently house Family and Children First Council as well as the Ohio State University Extension. Commissioner David White clarified that any move for the BOE would cost the county's general fund. And there are certain requirements, ADA compliance and other needs that the BOE has to meet from the state.

Commissioner Ron Feathers expressed a change of heart and stated he now believed the best place for JFS and Children Services is at 204 Davis.

"But the benefit of having JFS relocate to this location would be the future expansion for services offered to the citizens," he said.

The proposal to move to Davis Avenue would be in phases with
the board of elections not moving until after the 2020 election

The commissioners will make a final decision in the coming weeks.


ORIGINAL STORY 3/14/19

Job and Family Services and the Board of Elections addressed the Washington County commissioners Thursday on concerns of a possible move.

After the children services merger was approved late last year, JFS director Flite Freimann was tasked with exploring the possibility of consolidating his agency and children services into one location.

The intent is to save money and more efficiently deliver services.

Freimann presented his findings and believes consolidation to Davis Avenue (current Children Services home) is the best long-term option, both for space and costs. He also noted that JFS would be able to pay for the move out of its own budget, not costing the county any more money.

However, that move would require the Board of Elections to move which could then cause a chain reaction of other agency moves as proposed relocation sites would force out other groups.

Commission president David White also expressed dismay at the fact that there are a number of costs associated with those secondary moves have not yet been calculated.

"The assumption that staying the same is the cost saving is erroneous," Freimann said. "The cost savings is in consolidation. Remaining in two separate buildings will cost the county money, this year, next year, and every year thereafter."

"A more comprehensive plan has to be in place for a move of that proportion," White said, "and whether that move would be five years down the road or 10 years down the road, it can be done in a more orderly fashion that would not disrupt all the county services."

White added that he believes a move by the Board of Elections should not be done until after the 2020 presidential election.

The commissioners will review all of the findings and return to the issue in the coming weeks.