Published: Sunday, April 15, 2007
Social Security office to open
The new office will solve privacy and accessibility concerns.
By TIM YOVICH
WARREN There's a lot of moving going on by the Social Security Administration this weekend as it prepares to open its new Warren office Monday.
Barry Linville, Warren office manager, says if you want to find him, just look for the guy in the suit with the frazzled edges.
On Friday, the office was located on the second floor of a building across from Forum Health Trumbull Memorial Hospital on East Market Street.
On Monday, it will reopen on the first floor of the Gibson Building at 258 E. Market. The site is closer to where Social Security originally was in what is now the Sky Bank Building on Market at the Mahoning River downtown.
"This is going to be an ideal situation," Linville said as he watched the soft-drink machine being moved in.
Linville and Jim Mattes, public affairs specialist for the agency, said there was never any doubt the Social Security Administration wanted to stay in the city when looking for available space.
The General Services Administration, the government's real estate arm, was paying $10,000 per month for 8,000 square feet. It will be paying $24,000 for 10,500 square feet in the new location.
Reasons for the move
The agency wanted to move because the older offices were getting cramped and were on the second floor, making it difficult for those with physical handicaps to do business, and to increase privacy for customers and employees.
"That is a major headache that will disappear," Linville said of the facility's being more handicapped-accessible.
The lack of privacy has been the primary complaint from customers, Linville explained, because of the tight quarters.
The new offices have three standup counters and one wheelchair-accessible counter, where customers can get quick services for such services as replacing a lost Social Security card.
People who have business that might take some time, such as applying for disability benefits, will be directed to a separate waiting room so they can't overhear other customers who are discussing personal issues.
When their turn comes, they will be directed to one of 12 interviewing stations that are apart from the waiting room, so they can't be overheard.
There is also a separate room for employee training that Linville said is constantly used because criteria for benefits are always changing.
And there are about 100 spaces of free parking behind the Gibson Building.
The Warren office sends out between $43 million and $44 million in benefits each month to 50,000 eligible Trumbull County residents.
Linville and Mayor Michael A. O'Brien announced the move in March 2006. Linville said construction has been ongoing since the fall of 2006. He said it has been going "very smooth."
Linville explained that Jack Gibson Construction Co. has allowed the employees to take part in planning so they too can "take ownership in the facility."
"There have been no bumps in the road yet," he added.
During this weekend, desks, filing cabinets, computers and telephones are being moved so 26 employees can resume work Monday.
Mattes said that some people are concerned that the number of employees will be reduced as more business is conducted online.
"A computer can't make a decision," Mattes said, noting that local employees will make the decisions regardless if done personally or online.