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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

caton1982 2 years, 9 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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Carol Bowen 2 years, 9 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.

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gudpoynt 2 years, 9 months ago

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

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 :-)

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gudpoynt 2 years, 9 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.

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snook3200 2 years, 9 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.

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oldbaldguy 2 years, 9 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?

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naturalist 2 years, 9 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

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prospector 2 years, 9 months ago

Hey Seedlicker, turn a tap on and fill up a glass. How much did I spend on your bottled water?

Ass

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autie 2 years, 9 months ago

OK, I don't get this part. They announce closing the office and the little man with frown on his face from Florida tells them that no one person would be laid off and have the opportunity to drive someplace else to work. How do you force in 87 slots to surrounding offices without knowing who is going where and what there work asssignments will be (caseloads) or where they are going to sit down? Sounds sort of bass-ackwards here. Poor planning. That means later when the little man with a frown on his face can't find a place for everyone he can break his promise with impunity. Three months later when the smoke of battle has died down. I am also thinking that possibly a couple of custodial staff for the current will have nothing to do now? Chalk more job creation for the boys.

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lunacydetector 2 years, 9 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

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JohnSickels 2 years, 9 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.

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 9 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.

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 9 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.

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scott3460 2 years, 9 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.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 9 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.

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equalaccessprivacy 2 years, 9 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?

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StarfishPrime 2 years, 9 months ago

I'd quit having kids if I couldn't take care of them.

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notanota 2 years, 9 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?

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tange 2 years, 9 months ago

Shaft and post-draft. Riff-raff misunderestimating those who can do the math.

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Amy Heeter 2 years, 9 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.

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Bob_Keeshan 2 years, 9 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.

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tomatogrower 2 years, 9 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.

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scott3460 2 years, 9 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?

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Bob Forer 2 years, 9 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.

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deec 2 years, 9 months ago

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

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Lisa Rasor 2 years, 9 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.

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deec 2 years, 9 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.

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deec 2 years, 9 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.

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Chris Golledge 2 years, 9 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.

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lsense 2 years, 9 months ago

LJWorld, I see that you've posted the documents requested from SRS, such as the caseload numbers. However, there is no way to post comments on those pages. That should probably be corrected in the software.

Anyways, I have a question for you. The caseload numbers document: What division - EES, CSE, Vocational Rehabilitation, or CFS - are those numbers for? Are those new cases, current open cases, or what exactly are the numbers describing? Without specifiers like those just mentioned, the numbers don't mean a whole lot. Which, is probably how Siedlecki and crew made their decision (they didn't look at the breakdowns).

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deec 2 years, 9 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.

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nschmi04 2 years, 9 months ago

"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."

If we need shared sacrifice, as the Brownback goon points out, I am interested to know what the elite right is sacrificing in this state. Anyone? ANYONE?

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plainspeaking 2 years, 9 months ago

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

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jaybird79 2 years, 9 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.

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grandnanny 2 years, 9 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.

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To Sides 2 years, 9 months ago

I heard the landlord would be willing to reduce the rent but no one asked him

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MyName 2 years, 9 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.

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