Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

December 23, 2013

Supervisors, DHS to discuss space

Steve Woodhouse
Journal-Express

Knoxville — The last time the Marion County Board of Supervisors met, there was concern regarding where those working for the Iowa Department of Human Services, whom are serving the people of Marion County, would be based. There is still no resolution to this issue following Monday's regular board meeting, but more discussion took place. 

Ben Brackett with the Department of Administrative Services, which handles DHS rental agreements, as well as DHS representatives Darin Thompson and Pauline Rutherford met with the board. DHS has previously stated that it would like to relocate its employees in Marion County from a building on East Main to the former Public Health Annex on Sixth Street in Knoxville. Supervisors Jim Kingery and Craig Agan had expressed concern at this possibility, as the annex may be needed for County employees. 

Brackett told the board that one of the DHS employees working in the current Marion County building has an issue with the air quality there. This employee has been unable to work in Knoxville, due to this issue, and continues to serve Marion County clients while working in a Newton office. 

"We know of no air quality issues," Agan said during the discussion. 

Rutherford also expressed concern regarding security and privacy. Another entity in the building has the main entrance open 24 hours a day, which creates concern about access. She is also concerned about one's ability to access DHS records by climbing in through the ceiling. DHS maintains three rooms full of records in the current location. 

Rutherford continued to discuss the building, calling it "dingy" and "run down." Carpet is coming up in spaces, which creates another safety/liability issue, and she believes the building's interior needs a paint job. 

Marion County Attorney Ed Bull reiterated his support for finding a way to keep DHS employees in Knoxville. He said he is open to any discussions regarding locations that DHS is willing to have. 

According to Rutherford, the County is required to provide space for field social workers, as if these people were County employees. Agan and Kingery remained concerned about the uncertainty of what the County's office space needs would be in the future. 

The DHS services provided in Marion County bring 11 state employees to Knoxville. Brackett believes the arrangement of the Sixth Street annex would work well for the needs of DHS. At the end of the discussion, the board asked DHS to submit in writing its request for space. Discussions will move forward after that to find the best way to meet the needs of DHS and the County.