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Archive for Monday, July 11, 2011

Siedlecki, aides explain decision to close Lawrence SRS office

Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services Secretary Rob Siedlecki spoke with Lawrence Journal-World editors Monday, July 11, 2011, about the planned closure of the Lawrence SRS office. Siedlecki said there was no chance the Lawrence office will be spared closure, but maintained there will be some SRS presence in the city.

July 11, 2011

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Lawrence residents speak out on SRS closure

Some of the sounds from the public forum on the decision by Gov. Sam Brownback's administration to close the Lawrence office of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. Enlarge video

Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services Robert Siedlecki Jr. on Monday said there was no chance the Lawrence SRS office will be spared closure, but maintained there will be some SRS presence in the city.

Ten days after Siedlecki stunned Lawrence by announcing his plan to shut down the state’s fifth largest SRS office, the secretary and two of his assistants — Director of Legislative Affairs Gary Haulmark and Policy Director Michelle Schroeder — sat down for about 45 minutes with Lawrence Journal-World reporters and editors and talked about the closure decision.

“I wish it were different,” Siedlecki said. He said closing nine SRS offices, including Lawrence, was like asking a family which child they would be willing to sacrifice.

But, he said, his hand was forced by $42 million in cuts approved by Republicans in the Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback, also a Republican.

Siedlecki, handpicked by Brownback to lead the state welfare agency, didn’t criticize the cuts, saying that SRS had to do its share in helping balance the state budget.

Siedlecki maintained “no politics” entered into the decision to close the Lawrence office. Some have said the Lawrence office was targeted because Lawrence is one of the few Democratic-leaning cities in the state.

For days, law enforcement officials, social service advocates and concerned citizens have asked SRS for a detailed explanation as to why the Lawrence office, with 87 employees, was slated for closure.

On Monday, Siedlecki produced a list of written reasons for closing the Lawrence office, including:

  1. Easy access to other nearby SRS offices: Topeka (29 miles, served by a four-lane highway); Ottawa (26 miles); Kansas City (37 miles, four-lane highway); Overland Park (36 miles, four-lane highway); Leavenworth (39 miles).
  2. There is significant capacity in neighboring offices, more than enough to accommodate Lawrence staff. There are more than 100 open spaces in both Topeka and Kansas City.
  3. Topeka is a state owned building with more than 100 spaces open. Lawrence is expensive (fifth highest in the state) rental property.
  4. Consolidating the Lawrence office achieves significant savings, $413,000 total.
  5. Shawnee County and Wyandotte County have higher number of children living in poverty, Douglas County, 19 percent; Shawnee County, 27 percent, and Wyandotte County, 31 percent.
  6. Douglas County is a relatively wealthy county with low case numbers per capita (per 10,000 Kansans): Lawrence 921; Ottawa, 1,453; Kansas City, 2,196; Overland Park, 595, and Leavenworth, 1,115.

Asked why Lawrence would be closed and not Overland Park, which has a much lower caseload per capita, Siedlecki and Haulmark said there would not be enough openings in nearby SRS offices to absorb the 200 SRS employees in Overland Park.

Siedlecki said he and Haulmark are in discussions with local officials to identify free office space in Lawrence to house a small number of SRS staff to assist individuals in accessing services.

They also said they will keep a small number of child protective service workers in Lawrence to respond to time-sensitive and emergency situations.

At a meeting Saturday, Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said he was concerned about not having social workers on a timely basis to help in investigations of sexual abuse of a minor.

Haulmark said the closure of the Lawrence office won’t affect that. He said social workers in the field would continue to be available in those situations.

Siedlecki and Haulmark said they would continue meeting with city, county and state officials about the Lawrence situation, but wouldn’t go to the public meeting called by legislators on the issue.

The SRS officials also provided a sheet detailing savings from closing the Lawrence office. Of the $413,385 in annual savings, $331,875 came from the annual rental of two buildings.

The savings did take into account an additional $14,538 in extra travel expenses of SRS employees.

Siedlecki said there is room in nearby SRS offices to take in Lawrence’s 87 SRS employees. But he said some of those may choose to retire and then each of those positions will be reviewed to determine if they should be filled.

The other offices slated for closure over the next three months include Garnett, Coffeyville, McPherson, Marysville, Fort Scott, Pratt, Wellington and Lyndon.

Comments

MyName 3 years, 5 months ago

And they didn't mention any of this until after they announced they closing already. Transparency in government is something you do all the time, not something you do because people are suddenly giving you a hard time.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 5 months ago

",,,from closing the Lawrence office. Of the $413,385 in annual savings, $331,875 came from the annual rental of two buildings."

Wow! Where I came from one year's rent ($331,875) would have bought both those buildings, with change!

gudpoynt 3 years, 5 months ago

yep, and where I come from you can buy a 3br, 2000 sq ft. house for $45K.

and yet.... for some reason... i don't live in that little KS town anymore.

Bob_Keeshan 3 years, 5 months ago

Check out the list of state leases http://da.ks.gov/fm/leasing/onlineleasesrpt.htm

The Lawrence SRS office is 29,500 sq. ft. at $13.45/sq. ft.

The Topeka SRS office is 85,500 sq. ft. at $12.77/sq. ft.

And another Topeka SRS office is 37,437 sq. ft. at $14.41/sq. ft.

And there is extra space in Topeka? Why aren't they shutting down the extra space and keeping services open?

deec 3 years, 5 months ago

I know that KCK has a huge number of cases, but their cost at 401 State Avenue is $23.19. Must be some fancy digs. Or knowing how crooked Wyco is, somebody is making a killing leasing space in a not great part of town.

gudpoynt 3 years, 5 months ago

according to this (http://da.ks.gov/fm/leasing/officebycounty.asp), the WyCo office $19.25.

Which does seem like more than it needs to be. However, if you've ever been there, you'd realize that location is very important.

That being said, seems like there's enough empty space nearby in that area, that a move might be able to save some money in the long run.

deec 3 years, 5 months ago

The column on the far right lists total price including utilities, etc. I lived in KCK from June '99-June '06 on 14th between Central and Minnesota, so I am familiar with the area and the need. My point is that area of downtown KCK is primarily government offices with a little of the sort of retail poor inner city areas have-thrift stores, payday loan offices, rent-to-own stores, etc. This part of KCK is not high-rent Legends property, yet the rent being paid is very high.

gudpoynt 3 years, 5 months ago

I actually work less than 3 blocks away. I agree that the area is pretty decimated. While I think it's a bit conspiratorial that assume that a corrupt landlord is price gouging the state, I do think that looking for cheaper space, not only in WyCo, but wherever rent is high, would be a better alternative to completely closing offices.

Alceste 3 years, 5 months ago

Ok....enuff is enuff:

What are the addresses of the TWO Area offices in Topeka, please? The only one Alceste knows about is located at 500 S.W. Van Buren. Where is the other office, please? Surely you're not referring to SRS HQ which is in the Docking State Office Building.

deec 3 years, 5 months ago

SRS leases space at 503 S.Kansas Ave (2 rates listed), 500 SW Van Buren, 1430 SW Topeka Blvd,and 2820 SW Fairlawn. http://da.ks.gov/fm/leasing/officebycounty.asp

grandnanny 3 years, 5 months ago

Overland Park has 200 employees for 595 cases (1 to 3 ratio) but there were no cuts to OP. Our 87 employees were working 921 cases (1 to 10 ratio) but our office is too expensive. I love the logic used by these clowns.

xclusive85 3 years, 5 months ago

I think you misread those numbers. Those numbers are per 10,000 residents. Johnson county has roughly 5 times as many people as Douglas county. The OP office had over 3 times as many cases as the Lawrence office. Use the attachment to view total number of cases for each office.

http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/20/20091.html http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/20/20045.html

jaybird79 3 years, 5 months ago

How is it that Overland Park has half of the cases per capita compared to Lawrence and has more than twice the staff? Something stinks.

xclusive85 3 years, 5 months ago

Johnson County has 5 times the population of Douglas county, giving the OP office a little more than 3 times the number of cases than the Lawrence office.

Bob_Keeshan 3 years, 5 months ago

Incorrect. Management is not at the office being cited here.

It is ludicrous to think that SRS can afford literally hundreds of thousands of square feet of office space, much of it apparently empty, but can't afford 30,000 sq. ft. in the fifth largest community in the state.

plainspeaking 3 years, 5 months ago

If SRS has to close any offices, it would be wiser to close the Overland Park and Ottawa offices.

deec 3 years, 5 months ago

I noticed the estimated savings list is dated 7/7, 6 days after the decision was announced, and has at least two typing errors. Typing errors in "official" documents? Or shoddy work thrown together post-deed to placate the masses? I see no accounting for increased water and sewage use at the facilities to which the workers are to be moved. Will they be sharing phones with existing workers, or will more phones need to be purchased/leased? Why were they renting a copier and postage machine rather than owning one? These are the things I noticed with just a cursory glance at the documents that the "open and transparent" administration would not release until forced to by a FOIA request.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 5 months ago

Big Brother does not like it when you look at "official documents" that closely.

And neither do the owners that are renting buildings, copiers, and postage machines to the taxpayers.

gudpoynt 3 years, 5 months ago

It's pretty common practice for offices to rent copiers. Not sure about postage machines.

Good points about the additional phones and utilities that will be necessary to accommodate additional staff at existing locations.

I would also throw in additional administrative costs... that is if I thought that the state would actually pay a supervisor any more money just for having to manage more case workers.... which won't happen.

deec 3 years, 5 months ago

From the date on the savings list, which appears to have been hastily cobbled together post-decision, the numbers weren't even drawn up before the decision was made. The other document "Facts Considered..." is undated, very odd for an "official" document.

Chris Golledge 3 years, 5 months ago

The reasons look cooked.

Four-lane highway? What difference does it make if it is 4 or 2; it only matters how long it takes to get from the office to where the case work is.

Low case numbers per capita? Why is that a measure instead of, say, case numbers within range of the office, and case numbers per case worker?

Show us the records of deciding to use these reasons before the decision was made, and maybe we'll believe you.

xclusive85 3 years, 5 months ago

Four-lane highways generally have a higher speed limit than two lane highways, making traveling the same distance on the two take a little less time for a four-lane.

Overland Park, one of the offices that many people want closed instead of the Lawrence office, actually has over 3 times the number of cases and only twice as much staff making them have more case numbers per case worker.

notanota 3 years, 5 months ago

The number of lanes only make a difference if you are capable of driving. It might as well be a million miles away if you don't have a car, can't afford the gas, or have disabilities that prevent you from driving.

xclusive85 3 years, 5 months ago

I wasn't advocating for the closures or saying that people will be able to get to a different office. I was just responding to the statement: "it only matters how long it takes to get from the office to where the case work is."

deec 3 years, 5 months ago

"Siedlecki said he and Haulmark are in discussions with local officials to identify free office space in Lawrence to house a small number of SRS staff to assist individuals in accessing services.

They also said they will keep a small number of child protective service workers in Lawrence to respond to time-sensitive and emergency situations. " Where is the accounting in the savings list for the expense of maintaining this indeterminate number of employees in Lawrence? They'll need office space, utilities, phone, copy and fax service, etc.

deec 3 years, 5 months ago

Sidekicky said there's no chance Lawrence won't be closed. Didn't the Gov say just two days ago that he'd be willing to consider it? These guys need to get their stories straight.

Lisa Rasor 3 years, 5 months ago

I think the gov said something really vague about considering other options.

Love your morph of Siedlecki. Very fitting.

Lisa Rasor 3 years, 5 months ago

Not surprised they won't be at the community meeting tonight. They clearly don't care what the community has to say about this closure. And they're probably afraid of getting rotten fruit thrown at them. As they deserve.

LH3867 3 years, 5 months ago

They won't be there because they cannot answer questions. It takes 10 of them to sit down and come up with this nonsense and I would not be surprised if it was after the fact. They were just surprised by the outcry from our community and forced to come up with something. Good for us and good for Dr. Harder and good for Paul Davis.

deec 3 years, 5 months ago

Johnson County has 6.8% of the population below poverty level. Douglas County's rate is 21.7%.

xclusive85 3 years, 5 months ago

just curious, where did you get this number?

deec 3 years, 5 months ago

well, you do have to scroll down a ways. :)

Bob Forer 3 years, 5 months ago

It certainly sounds like they made a political decision and then after the fact, and in the midst of public outcry, they cobbled together a few "facts" to support their decision. At the very minimum, the decision stinks for lack of transparency and public input prior to making the decision.

overthemoon 3 years, 5 months ago

to save a whopping 400,000K?? these guys are playing with pennies and letting the rich run away with all the cash.

scott3460 3 years, 5 months ago

"The savings did take into account an additional $14,538 in extra travel expenses of SRS employees."

First, although I do not know this for a fact, many employers will not reimburse their employees for job related travel less than the length of their normal daily commute. By shifting the office at least 29 miles away, they have converted a great deal of work related travel to unreimbursed work related travel expense borne by the employee. Can anyone confirm this is what will result?

Additionally, the current IRS reimbursement rate for mileage is $0.51 per mile. By my calculation, that means they expect to compensate employees for something in the neighborhood of 29,000 miles. Each trip, given the above statement regarding what will actually be reimbursed, will be no less than 29 miles. If I've counted my fingers and toes correctly, that's about 1,000 reimbursed trips each year. Divide by 12 months of the year & that means they've figured on about 83 trips per month from the Lawrence caseload. Assuming 20 working days in a month, that's about 4 trips per day from the entire Lawrence caseload for investigations, case work, court testimony and various and sundry meetings.

Reasonable? Or are the savings overstated?

jafs 3 years, 5 months ago

Actually, they included the $14,000 figure as a cost to the state, subtracting it from the savings.

tomatogrower 3 years, 5 months ago

Cowards. Why aren't they coming to the meeting. He's getting paid big bucks. He shouldn't be on the clock. He's just afraid he's going to be tarred and feathered. Cowards. He needs to be reminded exactly who he works for. He doesn't work for Brownback, he works for Kansas taxpayers.

scott3460 3 years, 5 months ago

Silly Tomatogrower!!

The State of Kansas does not have enough money to fund lackey Siedlecki's trip to Lawrence and must cut spending so that tax rates for the wealthy can be kept low so that their riches can tinkle down upon us just as they have ever since the tax cutting frenzy began 20 years ago. Oh, wait.......

By the way, I wonder why your public servant cannot appear at the meeting via telephone.

Bob_Keeshan 3 years, 5 months ago

There are two SRS buildings being leased in Topeka, plus the payments paid to use multiple floors in the state office building.

If there is empty space in Topeka, why aren't they consolidating and shutting down operations?

The whole thing stinks to high heaven.

Alceste 3 years, 5 months ago

Ok....enuff is enuff:

What are the addresses of the TWO Area offices in Topeka, please? The only one Alceste knows about is located at 500 S.W. Van Buren. Where is the other office, please? Surely you're not referring to SRS HQ which is in the Docking State Office Building.

Bob_Keeshan 3 years, 5 months ago

Being in the Docking State Office Building is not free, SRS pays by the sq. ft. for that space.

Amy Heeter 3 years, 5 months ago

Well how about that? I said they would use other agencies for access and that Cps workers would be available. Then I was told that I was clueless. Hum how funny is this? Really funny.

deec 3 years, 5 months ago

That's assuming they can con some non profit or local government agency into subsidizing the state budget by providing free office space and all the attendant expenses-phone use, copying, fax access, etc.

scott3460 3 years, 5 months ago

It will be a riot (literally, perhaps) when one of those "small number" of CPS workers misses saving a kid.

The lawsuits which will result over the next decade will prove the foolishness of this penny wise approach to governing.

Hope the kids aren't ones anyone here knows. And that, I suppose, is what helps so many of you "pro-life" individuals sleep with your selves. It won't be any one you know.

But those kids are likely alive right now....someone's brother or sister...., grand kid......, nephew......

brujablanco 3 years, 5 months ago

Yeah, yeah, yeah, you know it all don't you? It's all hilariously funny 'till YOUR check doesn't show up in the mail. Disgusting.

notanota 3 years, 5 months ago

I also love the "some may choose to retire" logic. Yeah, that's not transparent. I wonder if they'll accidentally on purpose shift as many workers to Leavenworth as possible in order to add time to the commute and encourage a little early retirement?

LH3867 3 years, 5 months ago

I am sure that is what they are hoping for. You can bet the added expense for employees will be out of the employees' pockets. I am not arguing that the state should pay the travel but it does not take a genius to figure out what they are doing. We are moving staff so no one losses their job - oh wait - we hope they retire but if not hopefully they resign because they don't want to commute because of the added cost (although a job is better than no job). The headlines will read no employee lost his job as the result of the office closure, but we sure have alot less employees to serve the vulnerable citizens which will be fine because we are cutting the services next. Maybe they are transparent.

notanota 3 years, 5 months ago

Someone in another thread said that SRS were just told today (notice the coincidental timing that it's after the big meeting they're told this) that there weren't enough positions in nearby offices, and some would have to move or quit.

Hope LJW has a followup to confirm if this is the case.

scott3460 3 years, 5 months ago

And if you found yourself unemployed or widowed or disabled after they were born?

What then?

Maybe you should quit posting until you can take care to offer a grown up point of view.

notanota 3 years, 5 months ago

Gee, I hope neither you nor your spouse or children become disabled, because it would be pretty hard to keep your seat on that high horse.

equalaccessprivacy 3 years, 5 months ago

It's more than likely that in-person activation of Vision cards will be necessary. It is probably necessary to verify people's identity before releasing them. Is there a foolproof method to accomplish this long-distance? Vocational Rehabilitation services might also require a significant amount of in-person contact. Applications for that have never been available on-line.

People who use SRS services very often lack reliable transportation. Four-line highways are thus no boon. Install high-speed trains?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 5 months ago

"Siedlecki maintained “no politics” entered into the decision to close the Lawrence office."

It's 100% political. The rich say we're broke, so the poor and the disabled must pay.

Bob_Keeshan 3 years, 5 months ago

Lawrence is the home to the House Democrat leader and the recent Democrat nominee for Governor.

Duh.

scott3460 3 years, 5 months ago

OK, I just getting a chance to watch the video clip.

At some point midway he says something to the effect of "....we are going to look to see if there is donated office space HERE in Lawrence."

So, he apparently came to Lawrence to talk to the LJW, but is unwilling to face Lawrence citizens. Nice!!

On a positive note, I encourage everyone to view this clip. The constant downward glances and his overall demeanor tell me he knows what he's doing and that he's a pretty miserable liar. Some day his conscience will catch up with him and he knows it.

LH3867 3 years, 5 months ago

I saw that also and the bobble head thing. He really is a liar. He travels the state with his act. He tells different offices different things depending on where he is. This man has got to go. He has zero integrity. He needs to take his act back to Florida.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 5 months ago

It makes zero sense to close a facility with high demand.

Lawrence,Kansas is a low wage city with high rents thus demand kicks up for SRS services.

A sizeable number of Wal-Mart employees depend on SRS services. Which is to say corporations that can afford to do better do not do better. They prefer SRS services = higher profits for Wal-Mart the Brownback campaign money people.

It makes zero sense to close a facility with high demand.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 5 months ago

Donated office space? Brownback is a moocher.

Like the FREE land that the one of the wealthiest candy makers in the world received? = Mars a wealthy tax dollar moocher got to taxpayers for about $10,000,000(million).

Now who should stand on their own?

Brownback has been on a high wage tax dollar payroll for about 20 years or more. Who knows what has been coming through his back door. Hmmmmmmm In reality he loves big government otherwise he might need to get a real job.

John Sickels 3 years, 5 months ago

Body language of a liar.

This was a political decision. Everyone knows it. Even Republicans know it. The goal is to punish Douglas County and Lawrence.

downriverdan 3 years, 5 months ago

You are correct John. Douglas County did not vote against Democrats in the election.

As one of the great leaders of the grand ole party said to other long time allies of the United States, If you are not with us then you are against us.

And his party's followers then declared they would know longer buy wine and french fries. LOL

lunacydetector 3 years, 5 months ago

you people complain just to complain. so much drama. i figured all the marijuana you folks smoke would mellow you out. not so, i guess

TNPlates 3 years, 5 months ago

Good one! Lawrence votes Democrat, so we must all smoke pot! Love the reasoning and can see your so-called detector is immune to your own thoughts.

naturalist 3 years, 5 months ago

Can't Doug Compton donate some of his empty rental space for SRS services and give himself a tax break in the process? win/win

oldbaldguy 3 years, 5 months ago

Seidicki was in Ft Scott the week before the closing announcement and told the staff they were getting two more slots. Then they were told they were being closed the next week. Did you know that a lot of the top drawer meetings at SRS are opened with prayer? The second in command (another Florida boy) at SRS allegedly stated that the mentally ill are a drain on Kansas at a meeting in Topeka?

snook3200 3 years, 5 months ago

solution #! hire more police officers to deal with all the crime and all the mental ill and all the people that will lose it when they cant fill forms out and get to workers and get questions answers and get services they have received in past. phones wont get answered. web sites will be shut down and cases will be closed and we will all have to reapply and play the state game.why all the time our families and children suffer. when we get sent to these outter offices we will be treated horribly. I am already dreading it. knowing the treatment we all are facing is coming. we are all in for the fight of our lives to keep our services. this is how it always is. what a joke. and then when someone with ptsd, bipolar or someother disorder loses it, whos fault will it be then? surely not the states? they havent done anything to us, lol whatever. this is all a joke on lawrence. and it wont get any easier for any of us no matter how much we complain. we will get the bad treatment forever. we are the losers. thanks brownback. you broke my back. thanks a lot.

gudpoynt 3 years, 5 months ago

Dear Mr. Siedlecki,

Since you seem pretty adamant in guaranteeing that all 87 employees of the Douglas Co SRS office in Lawrence shall be able to retain their position if so desired, can you inform us exactly where those 87 positions will redistributed?

How many of those 87 positions can feasibly by accommodated in neighboring offices? How many will need to be moved to offices over 50 miles away?... over 100 miles away?

Would making accommodations for these 87 position counteract the Governor's cost saving recommendation in the 2012 budget, to "[eliminate] 550 positions that have been vacant for some time"?

After guaranteeing there would be no layoffs, you said that if employees of the Douglas Co office chose to retire or resign, rather than commuting or moving to new locations, that the vacated positions would be reevaluated as to whether or not they should be filled.

First, do you acknowledge that some employees may be essentially forced to quit, and that requiring them to incur unacceptable commuting or moving costs in order to retain their position is effectively the same as laying them off?

Second, during the evaluation process, did you, or any of your advisers, make an estimation on how many employees out of the 87 would either resign or retire as a result of closing the Douglas Co office? If so, what were some of those estimations?

And finally, considering the impact that closing the SRS office in Lawrence would have, to what degree did you seek alternatives at keeping it open? For instance, did you consider cutting staff? Did you attempt to locate a cheaper office space alternative?

Concise, but definitive answers to these questions would much appreciated.

gudpoynt 3 years, 5 months ago

btw, according to this document (http://bit.ly/nC7IST) Siedlecki's email address is:

Robert.Siedlecki@srs.ks.govp>Robert.Siedlecki@srs.ks.gov>

Why not drop a message in his inbox voicing your concern?

People who attended the meeting yesterday might want to fill him in on what he missed :-)

Carol Bowen 3 years, 5 months ago

Lawrence's approach could have been different. We complained about our loss rather than addressing the bigger picture. How are SRS services distributed across the state? Within the overall scheme, how does Lawrence fit? Is it reasonable for Lawrence to have an SRS office and others communities not have services? Personally, I think the cuts in the state budget should have been made somewhere else. However, Brownback will be in office 3 1/2 more years. I did read a suggestion on another blog. Offer to rent an empty school building to SRS for a nominal amount. That would save over $300,000.

Tara Painter 3 years, 5 months ago

what crap, how can you say well Ottawa or Topeka, gas price's are still high and your looking at least 30 min drive. We have one of the biggest homeless problems in the state, which S.R.S. helps with, top it off Topeka has two buildings close one of those down. Its just like the schools close one to save money and then find out later that it didn't even help, they never look into the future but in the moment. Don't they know theres not even a public bus to get to these other offices so I don't see how thats a plus.

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