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Tight Quarters Squeeze Social Services' Budget

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CUMBERLAND COUNTY — Cumberland County's Department of Social Services is dealing with major growing pains. Expanded programs have created cramped quarters, which have forced officials to rent office space that's costing $30,000 a month -- money that could be spent on additional social services instead.

Lack of space has forced the agency to place employees in offices away from the main building until a new building is completed.

Two hundred of the agency's more than 600 employees are now working out of rented space at eight office buildings throughout the county.

DSS Director Chip Modlin says the space problem "requires a great deal more coordination, and making sure someone is in charge at each of these locations."

Linda Smith knows how it feels to work in tight quarters. Her office was once a closet.

"When you are cramped, you get frustrated and after awhile it gets you down, especially when you are trying to help a client," Smith says.

Other closets, file rooms and hallways at Cumberland County DSS have also been transformed into offices. Files and computers line the hallways.

The monthly rent for the space is coming out of the DSS budget. Without the space problem, that money could be going to help those in need.

Employees say they can't dwell on that. "We have to move on and do the best job we can with what we have."

The county has been aware of the building's condition and the space problem for several years, but commissioners did not approve a new building plan until last year.

Taxpayers are now paying for the new building, and for the rented space required until the building is completed next year.


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