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Rath building seventh floor social services offices unveil new look

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Tue, Feb 26th 2019 08:40 pm

Renovated office of legal affairs adds services, efficiency along with greater client privacy, security

Phase I of $1.3 million project updates space for first time in 50 years

The Erie County Department of Social Services has unveiled a brand-new look in its seventh-floor Rath building office of legal affairs following the completion of phase one of a $1.3 million renovation that brings the office together with partner agencies in an updated, professional office setting. The renovation, the first such project conducted on the space since the Edward A. Rath county office building opened 50 years ago, completely updated 14,000 square feet of space with the construction of new partitions, new floor finishes, updates to lavatories and the conversion of the existing women’s lounge into a unisex ADA-compliant toilet room, the first of its kind in the Rath building.

“The new seventh-floor space transforms what had been a drab, sterile and uninviting space into a modern office space that is welcoming and includes the technology and communications that are expected in the 21st century,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said. “It is a space that offers more security and privacy to clients as well as a more professional work environment for staff, and will allow greater efficiency in providing services and working with partner agencies. It makes tremendous sense to wisely use the space we have here available at the Rath building, bringing county workers here rather than having them in leased office space, and this renovation shows how that works for all.”

Social services’ legal space and offices that had been dispersed throughout the Rath building and in leased space in Buffalo have been centralized through the renovation project, which now supports the director of legal affairs, who oversees all DSS legal services, as well as the supervising attorneys for the child abuse/neglect division and the child support enforcement division. All of the attorneys are now located in the same work area, which will increase collaboration and efficiency in serving clients’ needs. In addition, the seventh-floor conference room was also renovated and will include teleconferencing capabilities that will be used by the department’s child welfare division.

New, high security centralized file rooms were also created to safely house client files in a secure but accessible location and a professional, highly efficient office space with new lighting, flooring, partitions and furniture. A warm, welcoming reception area replaces the sterile and unattractive waiting room that had greeted guests since 1968.

The project, funded through a combination of county funding along with New York state and federal funds, was conducted by Erie County staff from the Department of Buildings and Grounds.

Social Services Commissioner Marie Cannon said, “This project has not only transformed this space, it has brought a whole new attitude to this department and the individuals and agencies we work with. This space is professional, efficient and more respectful for both our clients and our staff, and it allows us to work in closer proximity to our partners, providing better service in an appropriate atmosphere.”

“Our staff at Buildings and Grounds was indispensable to the completion of this project, and I thank them for their hard work, which will now improve efficiency for the Department of Social Services while at the same time improving the physical space here at the Rath building,” Commissioner of Public Works Bill Geary said. “Our department is accustomed to interdepartmental cooperation to further county goals and to better serve the public, so we have been pleased to work with the Social Services department to see this project take shape.”

Phase two of the project, to be completed in the spring, will bring more workers from other divisions together on the seventh floor to better facilitate case management. Five workers from child welfare and two PINS (persons in need of supervision) workers will relocate to the Rath building from offices at 478 Main St., Buffalo, to have quick access to both Family Court and child welfare attorneys, strengthening case preparation and partnership with the parties charged with protecting families in Erie County. Phase two will also involve the creation of six work stations for caseworkers whose schedule may involve extensive time in court, allowing these individuals greater access to Family Court and the attorneys associated with these cases.

For more information on the Erie County Department of Social Services, visit http://www2.erie.gov/socialservices/; or for more on the Erie County Department of Public Works, visit http://www2.erie.gov/dpw/.

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