With the unexpected closure of the Family and Social Services Administration building in Howard County, employees and clients were suddenly without a place to go.
There is a new, temporary location was opened Monday, Feb. 11, at 217 East Southway Blvd., Suite 101, and workers will be able to go back to work.
Marni Lemons, deputy director of communications and media for the FSSA, said employees were given the choice of working in other county offices or taking time off.
“I’ve been told the (employees) were offered options to go to Miami County, Cass County, or Grant County to work there or use personal time,” Lemons said. “It was as sudden for us as it was for them. I’m sure if there were other individual issues we would have been happy to work with people.”
Those who did not opt to travel to other counties could use paid personal hours or vacation time.
“We need them to do the work,” Lemons said. “We rely on our employees to help us succeed. Our employees can still do work for Howard County at our other offices.”
Lemons also said clients from Howard County can do most of what they need to do over the phone and on the Internet.
“We hope the clients did not suffer (from the closure),” Lemons said. “It’s a matter of we’re doing our best to serve people. We want to do as much for the clients as possible. I’m sure it’s a hardship when one of these offices are closed for repairs.”
There is an FSSA office in every county in the state, Lemons said.
The FSSA office in Howard County had to be closed because of severe water leaks, and the entire roof will have to be replaced before the building inspector allows the building to open again.
The water leak also caused problems with the electrical panels in the building and light fixtures, which was an immediate fire hazard.
“We are sorry for any inconvenience that damages to the roof caused anyone, “ she said.
The temporary location will be used for about four months, according to Lemons.
“We will be moving to a more permanent locations, as I understand,” she said. “I am told we will probably be somewhere else, but we don’t have that location yet.”
The closure of the building is just one of many that has plagued the FSSA building in the past few years.
Most recently it was closed from Jan. 12-16 for leaking problems similar to the one that forced closure most recently.
For the past two years, there have been other closures due to hazardous conditions, such as collapsing structures and environmental issues.
Water was first reported leaking in to the building in September of 2011, with water leaking through three floors and causing collapsed ceiling tiles, and filling in light fixtures among other problems. Each rain also caused a sewage smell to fill the building, and bricks falling from the rear of the building have also been reported.
Employees have reported respiratory problems and have been treated for allergic reactions to mold. Lead and elevated levels of carbon monoxide have also been reported.
Venture Real Estate, a firm headed by real estate broker John M. Bales, owns the current building. Since 2006, many state offices in several communities relocated to Venture Real Estate-owned properties. The Kokomo FSSA office similarly relocated from a newly constructed facility on East Superior Street and into the Venture-owned building. The facility on East Superior Street remains empty.