Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Social Services Unit to Move Soon

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Social Services Unit to Move Soon

Article excerpt

Moving day is looming for the Bergen County Board of Social Services, which is heading down the block and across the street this month to another building in the same Rochelle Park office complex.

Officers of the agency, which administers food stamps, Medicaid and other public assistance programs in Bergen, say the new building will cost about $800,000 to $900,000 less in rent each year while providing a more secure and efficient work space.

The layout of the new building at 218 Route 17 north will end the practice of having clients sit in a first-floor waiting room and then having to escort them, one at a time, by a security guard to meet with their caseworker, said Alex Morales, the interim management consultant for the board.

"All of these things are going to increase productivity and create less turmoil and craziness for the staff," Morales told the board Thursday during its final regular monthly meeting in the current headquarters at 216 Route 17 north. Morales, who had served as the board's construction manager on the project, said he expects the move will begin on Sept. 15 without interruption of services.

But employees are skeptical of both the move's timetable and the design of their new workplace.

"It's going to be a miracle for us to in there by the 15th because of all the work that needs to be done," said Rhonda Wilson, president of Local 1089 of the Communications Workers of America, which represents about 200 employees. Wilson said she has seen the new space and has concerns about the layout. She described it as "claustrophobic" because it will have 55,000 square feet, compared with 74,000 square feet in the old space.

She also questioned if the new building will be more secure, because clients will have the ability to walk around on their own instead of being escorted.

"They should have thought it out and started the planning sooner," Wilson said.

But agency officials say much thought and planning went into the new building, chosen after a nearly yearlong search. …

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