Taneytown office for social services to close at year's end

County cannot afford to operate satellite

October 24, 2003|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

A satellite social services office in Taneytown will close at the end of the year, and its staff and some 300 area families who use it will be sent to the county's social services headquarters in Westminster, officials said.

The office, which helps families with food stamps, emergency cash and medical and day care assistance, is being closed because the county Department of Social Services can no longer afford to operate it, said James A. Mayola, assistant director of the Family Investment Administration of the Carroll County Department of Social Services.

"The budget gets smaller and smaller," Mayola said. "We're working under tighter times."

The Taneytown office serves the northwest area, including Union Bridge and Keymar, Mayola said.

Other social services for Carroll, such as child support and protective services, have always been provided at county Department of Social Services headquarters in Westminster, he said.

Arrangements are being made for the Taneytown office's half-dozen or more clients who are expected to need transportation to the Westminster office 12 miles way, Mayola said.

Taneytown Mayor W. Robert Flickinger said he was told of the closing in a meeting Tuesday with Mayola and said he appreciated being told face to face.

The two staff members at Taneytown will be moved to Westminster. They would not discuss the closing.

The center opened to fanfare in April 1998, in a restored 19th-century bank owned by the city and formally named the Taneytown Human Services Center by the city council.

Since then, the two-story brick building at 24 E. Baltimore St. has been leased to the state for $1 a year, said Gary W. Hardman, Taneytown city manager. The city maintains the building, and pays for water and sewer, while the state pays for utilities and cleaning.

Although he didn't have a figure, Mayola said the cost of the office had become too high for a department that has a hiring freeze.

Norris P. West, spokesman for the state Department of Human Resources, which oversees the Carroll Social Services Department, said, "There might be some minor cost savings, but basically it's just more efficient to rein everybody into one location."

No programs will be eliminated for the roughly 300 families who use that center, West said.

Although other agencies use the Taneytown building for meetings, interviews or programs, Mayola said his organization is the only full-time occupant.

Mayola agreed with Taneytown officials that the decision to close the office had nothing to do with recent discussions at city council meetings about asking the state to kick in more money toward upkeep of the building.

Hardman was asked about 1 1/2 months ago to figure out the costs to the town since the center opened.

"When it came to renewing the terms of the lease, from my perspective, $6,500 over a five-year period is not a lot," Hardman said.

But "all of us are having financial difficulties right now," and the state seemed amenable to the suggestion.

"It was never the city's intention to run them out. We wanted them here, as far as I know. It was more like, `Hey, can you help us out a little bit? One dollar, and maybe help with painting and carpentry a little bit?' We never gave them any kind of figure.

"Still, I felt bad about it: They provided a needed service up here, and we are very, very sorry to see them go," Hardman said.

Mayola praised the city as a landlord, saying they had a "wonderful relationship."

"I met with the mayor and assured him that the mayor and council been wonderful, the best landlords you could ask for. Whatever we asked for, we got," Mayola said.

"They're very caring about their constituents."

With no likelihood of a change of plans, Flickinger said he has an idea for the future of the 1887 building across the street from City Hall.

"The Chamber of Commerce is looking for a building, to have their own office for people to come in," he said. "That's just my idea."

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