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New Social Services offices have a few quirks

Hubbard County Social Services receptionist Jan F. holds up her coffee urn, which she keeps at her feet to stay warm. Behind her sits a space heater to warm the area. But space heater use has been curtailed because they were tripping the circuit breakers frequently. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Hubbard County Social Services receptionists are bundling up for work these days.

A glitch in the new office's heating and cooling system has resulted in front office personnel dressing in layers, and caseworkers in back offices asking for permission to wear Bermuda shorts to work.

Multiple space heaters at the reception desk have been curtailed to a single heater because the network of space heaters had a propensity to trip the circuit breakers every few minutes.

"We have furniture that did not get ordered and it will be here the middle of the month," said Director Daryl Bessler.

"We're also throwing breakers. It's 62 degrees up front. People are wearing coats. It's hard to work on a computer when it's that cool."

But overall, the new digs are dandy.

"We're in," Bessler said. "We're still digging out. It's a nice facility. Some of these wrinkles have to get ironed out. Unfortunately it appears that some of the people... I was told that somebody has to come from Carolina to figure out the heating system. That doesn't make much sense to me."

So the heating and cooling system may not get an immediate fix.

The space above the county jail was a tropical 80+ degrees last week when employees and Sentence to Service inmates began the move.

Fans were brought in to circulate the warm air to the front entry.

The office opened as scheduled Dec. 31, but the lobby was so cool, clients didn't linger long.

Bessler said some things did go right. The county's contract technical squad performed flawlessly, he said, and computers and equipment were running.

"Everything was done and in," Bessler said.

"We're seeing people. It's been good. We have interview rooms. Probably one of the nicest places in the building is the lobby."

The department, crammed on two floors of the county's office building next door, lacked privacy to meet with clients or to secure confidential files.

"We can talk with clients now without bringing them into a secured area," Bessler said.

"We have meeting rooms. We don't have furniture but we brought some chairs in so we've been able to make use of that.

"It's going to be wonderful once we get some of the kinks out," he said.

Meanwhile stationary positions are bearing the discomfort in good humor. All three receptionists were wearing heavy sweaters and had their winter coats slung over their chair backs.

"I feel bad because our office support staff are glued to those desks," Bessler said. "It's not like a social worker who can do a home visit to warm up or cool off.

"Roger, our maintenance person, has showed us where we can flip the switch off" (to control the heat,) Bessler said. "I don't know how many times we've done that already today and it's only 9:00. So we asked folks to pull the heaters."

But the workload is evening out, thanks to a warm incentive plan.

"In the back, we have a resource room that needs to get organized so employees rotate back there to warm up," Bessler said. "I told them to take turns."

Bessler said department staffers are excited to be under the same roof together with amenities they had to turn into office space in the old building.

"We actually have meetings rooms, we have a break room. People were a little hesitant about cubicles but they're getting acclimated. We ran out of supplies so they'll have to come back to finish that off," he said of the cubicles ordered.

"I think you'd see this in any building project."

Aside from the glitches, which receptionists were handling with grace, once the boxes are unpacked, the place will feel more like home.

Even outside the building, temporary signs were peeling in the cold weather.

"We're gonna get this place cleaned up and looking good," Bessler said. "It's only Day 3."

Plans to renovate the old building will be discussed at next week's board meeting.

Because the board has moved its meetings to Tuesdays, the day the Enterprise lays out its Wednesday paper, there will be limited coverage of county activities going forward.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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