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County seeking to fill offices vacated by DHS change

Friday, June 18, 2010

When the Plymouth County Department of Human Services goes from full-time to part-time June 1, several offices will be vacated at the county's DHS building in Le Mars.

That could translate into less federal dollars flowing into Plymouth County, according to a DHS official.

By law, the county is required to provide space for DHS offices, and the county is reimbursed by federal dollars, Jim Thompson, state DHS executive officer II explained.

A formula, based on the number of offices and common spaces used by the DHS, creates a percentage to determine how much the county gets paid, he said.

Most recently, that level has been about 46 percent of all costs incurred direct and indirect from DHS using that office space.

For the last fiscal year, 2009-10, the total reimbursement was $64,592, according to the Plymouth County Treasurer's Office.

Thompson said when the change to part-time DHS occurs, the number of offices used by the DHS in the county-owned building at 19 Second Ave. N.W. will drop from 11 to six. Two other offices will be used part-time.

"That percentage may change; it will probably shrink some," Thompson said.

DHS targeted case managers, who work with people with developmental disabilities and those chronically mentally ill, will continue to have offices at the Le Mars building, Thompson said.

At least seven other DHS staff members there have been reassigned to other offices, he said.

"Hopefully we can use the conference room," Thompson said of the Le Mars building. "We still have files and stuff in the basement, so we'd still be using a substantial percentage of the basement."

People will still be seen by appointment at the Le Mars DHS building for income maintenance or social worker and family team meetings, Thompson said.

"Nobody will be able to walk in -- we'll no longer do walk-in business," he said.

Plymouth County Supervisor Don Kass said the change in dollar amount of the reimbursement won't happen until after this fall.

"They're going to extend the rent all the way into September under the current contract use," he said. "We don't know what's going to happen after that."

The DHS building in Le Mars is also shared with other agencies like Parent Partner of Northwest Iowa, which will continue to lease two offices.

Some of the offices the DHS will vacate are already set to be rented, Kass said.

"Sharon Nieman has done a good job of going out and getting like social services and begun the process of renting some offices already," he said. "There are still going to be some empty, but they're going to be the tiniest offices, more or less. I think there's going to be at least five."

Nieman, is a Plymouth County employee, the Central Point Coordinator for the county. She'll also continue to hold an office in the building.

"She works hand in hand with those agencies," Kass explained.

Nieman said the main lobby and front desk space will be open.

"We don't have the resources to man that right now," she explained.

Kass said the county doesn't have plans for the remaining offices yet.

Earlier, county officials had discussed making changes to the DHS building to improve security like moving the front counter.

"Those might be put by the wayside because the people that were there aren't going to be there any more," Kass said.

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