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Archive for Saturday, July 23, 2011

Forum explores responses to loss of city’s SRS office

Douglas County United Way CEO Erika Dvorske talks about Saturday's public forum on the closing of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitative Service's Lawrence office and plans for the future with regard to meeting the communities needs.

July 23, 2011

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Concerned residents, including state Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, right, huddle together in a breakout group discussion during a public meeting on Saturday regarding the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitative Service’s closure of the Lawrence office. Local leaders and residents expressed their concerns and discussed their ideas for how assistance could be provided and needs could be met in the future.

Concerned residents, including state Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, right, huddle together in a breakout group discussion during a public meeting on Saturday regarding the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitative Service’s closure of the Lawrence office. Local leaders and residents expressed their concerns and discussed their ideas for how assistance could be provided and needs could be met in the future.

Lawrence residents and community leaders gathered Saturday to voice their opinions about the upcoming closure of the Lawrence SRS office.

Over 97 people attended the forum, sponsored by the Lawrence League of Women Voters and the United Way of Douglas County.

Kay Hale, the league president, said the purpose of the forum was for providers and recipients of SRS services to begin planning a response if the Lawrence office closes on Oct. 1 of this year.

Front-line workers, social-work administrators, recipients and other concerned residents divided into respective groups, venting frustrations and sharing ideas about the forthcoming closure.

“Today is really focused on trying to address the need to plan,” said Erika Dvorske, president and CEO of the United Way of Douglas County. Dvorske said the discussion was the first step to planning a response and an opportunity to assess the community’s needs.

The groups discussed several topics, including the current status of social services in Douglas County and their knowledge of the situation. Participants also talked about possible repercussions of the closure and social service needs of the state and community.

After meeting, the groups shared their responses. Some said they needed more information and a definite plan about closures, adding that face-to-face contact and personal relationships with the SRS service recipients were a necessity.

Others were more blunt, simply stating they needed the Lawrence office to remain open.

Hank Booth, director of government and community affairs for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, wanted more time for negotiations to proceed. He also urged residents to refrain from uncivil speech and behavior.

“The political barbs have got to stop,” Booth said. “We will not get a working dialogue with Topeka if the hurling of insults continues.”

Other local leaders participating in the discussions were state Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence; state Rep. Terri Lois Gregory, R-Baldwin City; House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence; state Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence; and Douglas County Commissioner Nancy Thellman.

Comments

luckysgirl 2 years, 8 months ago

I am so glad to see a bi-partisan response to this issue. Good for you Lawrence! Our National government could take a clue from this! Thank you for sitting down together to find a solution.

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Gandalf 2 years, 8 months ago

Pay especial attentionto this paragraph and start contacting legislators.

(d) An executive reorganization order which is effective shall be published as and with the acts of the legislature and the statutes of the state. Any executive reorganization order which is or is to become effective may be amended or repealed as statutes of the state are amended or repealed.

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Gandalf 2 years, 8 months ago

I think this is why brownie moved to close the lawrence ofice now and wants to get it done before the legislature reconvenes.

  1. Reorganization of state agencies of executive branch.

(a) For the purpose of transferring, abolishing, consolidating or coordinating the whole or any part of any state agency, or the functions thereof, within the executive branch of state government, when the governor considers the same necessary for efficient administration, he may issue one or more executive reorganization orders, each bearing an identifying number, and transmit the same to the legislature within the first thirty calendar days of any regular session. Agencies and functions of the legislative and judicial branches, and constitutionally delegated functions of state officers and state boards shall be exempt from executive reorganization orders.

(b) The governor shall transmit each executive reorganization order to both houses of the legislature on the same day, and each such order shall be accompanied by a governor's message which shall specify with respect to each abolition of a function included in the order the statutory authority for the exercise of the function. Every executive reorganization order shall provide for the transfer or other disposition of the records, property and personnel affected by the order. Every executive reorganization order shall provide for all necessary transfers of unexpended balances of appropriations of agencies affected by such order, and such changes in responsibility for and handling of special funds as may be necessary to accomplish the purpose of such order. Transferred balances of appropriations may be used only for the purposes for which the appropriation was originally made.

(c) Each executive reorganization order transmitted to the legislature as provided in this section shall take effect and have the force of general law on the July 1 following its transmittal to the legislature, unless within sixty calendar days and before the adjournment of the legislative session either the senate or the house of representatives adopts by a majority vote of the members elected thereto a resolution disapproving such executive reorganization order. Under the provisions of an executive reorganization order a portion of the order may be effective at a time later than the date on which the order is otherwise effective.

(d) An executive reorganization order which is effective shall be published as and with the acts of the legislature and the statutes of the state. Any executive reorganization order which is or is to become effective may be amended or repealed as statutes of the state are amended or repealed.

http://www.kslib.info/constitution/art1.html

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bobberboy 2 years, 8 months ago

not to worry for long. the srs office will be one of the first to come back once the great Akhenaten is no longer our governor.

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jackbinkelman 2 years, 8 months ago

I can't understand how LESS face to face time will limit fraud..

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SoooDone1 2 years, 8 months ago

I should add, Siedlecki has fired nearly all program directors and brought in people from Florida. Additionally, he fired nearly all of the directors in the regions that serve the communities. This has nothing to do with work performance, but this decision was done so that he could put in individuals that would support his agenda, nothing more. The new leadership, 90% from Florida, know nothing about Kansas or knowledge about SRS. While this approach and leadership may have worked in Florida for all these folks, I hope Kansans will make it clear that it just doesn't fly here.

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SoooDone1 2 years, 8 months ago

I beg the media to continue to follow this and ask the important questions. I can tell you that state employees are fearful to speak out, as this administration does not respect one's right to do so, and it is likely that you will find yourself without a job. Please ask the following- 1. How many new positions Siedlecki has created in SRS Central Office to serve as mouthpieces for the conservative agenda. I can tell you, as an SRS employee, there are positions directly under him, likely all making 100,000 plus, that have never existed in the agency before (examples include the new chief of staff Jeff Kahrs, who exist so that the Secretary himself does not have to deal with staff. The new position of Deputy Secretary of Faith based initiatives, which....well don't get me started on, there are new positions that have been created to speak to the media and try to do damage control around what they are doing). 2. How much salary money is being used with the new top administrators in Central Office in SRS in comparison to previous administrations? I bet the difference would have said nearly all of the SRS offices that are set for closure.

While it is being claimed that these closures are being done to address a budget shortfall and a call to reduce administrative spending by one million dollars, please don't be mistaken that this money has been saved. It has just been relocated to the hands of a few, most of whom have come here from Florida to ride the Brownback train to Washington. These individuals know nothing about and care very little about Kansas itself.

Employees that have worked for the state for years indicate that this is the worst it has ever been. This new administration makes decisions and does not solicit feedback from the individuals in the communities in which SRS serves. They have come here with one agenda, and that has nothing to do with saving you money as a tax payer. Guaranteed.

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lunacydetector 2 years, 8 months ago

wow only 97 people attended. a couple of weeks ago it was hundreds.

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Floyd Craig 2 years, 8 months ago

simple IMPEACH BROWNBACK AND HIS STOOGES OR GO BROKE AND STAY UNDER THE KAW RIVER BRIDGE OR HIT A COP N STAY FOR FREE AT THE JAIL

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Lana Christie-Hayes 2 years, 8 months ago

A simple e-mail I sent to the Douglas County residents in my e-mail contacts. Just copy and paste into your own e-mail.

Please help stop the closure of the Lawrence SRS office by signing the petition at this link http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/saveoursrs/ and forward to other Douglas County residents asap. Thanks for helping save the local SRS!

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Lana Christie-Hayes 2 years, 8 months ago

Can anyone find out what is to be done about the current lease? Do they plan to "buy out" the landlord, or honor it anyway or what?? I firmly believe the lease is the best avenue in the short term to stop this travesty from happening!

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Lana Christie-Hayes 2 years, 8 months ago

Don't give up before the miracle happens!..I, for one, am not ready to throw in the towel..the battle hasn't even really begun. There are legal ways that the closing of the SRS office can be fought. I am dismayed that those options have not really been explored. The legal battle could be because of the lease agreement which does not expire until Dec. 2012..with an additional 6 months past that.. see http://www2.ljworld.com/documents/201... which states: "Both parties mutually agree to the following terms: 1. Subject to termination for fiscal necessity, four (4) years of occupancy are guaranteed. 2. The Lessee may terminate this lease upon the giving of 180 days notice in writing to the Lessor, after the end of the (4) year guaranteed lease period. 3. Effective December 20, 2008, the Lessee will lease 29,500 square feet of office space at the rate of $11.25 per square foot. 4. The Lessee will make quarterly lease payments. 5. At the conclusion of year four (4), a Consumer Price Index (CPI) lease rate increase will be applied at a rate and condition agreed upon by both parties. 6. If the lease is terminated prior to the expiration of the term, any unearned lease payment will be refunded to the Lessee on a pro rata basis." another way suggested is a class action suit against the state for not providing adequate care for persons with disabilities.. and I'm sure that same legal mandate applies to children.

Furthermore, it doesn't seem to me that solutions have even been sought out by the local leaders. COME ON!!.. there are many properties sitting empty in Lawrence that would make ideal locations for an affordable SRS office.

I understand that things need to be discussed as to what MAY happen IF the SRS office is closed, but I don't think it's the right time, yet, if ever, for THAT discussion. It gives the appearance, in my opinion, of giving in and giving up. I didn't give up in my personal battles, and SRS was there for me during those difficult times. SRS gave me hope and direction. I still hope to see more aggressive action from our local leaders in obtaining legal representation and putting a "stay" on this incredibly ignorant move by the @@@@s at the state level. In the meantime, more rallies, (in Topeka), more phone calls, e-mails, petition promotion etc... Don't let this effort by our community and those who care be for naught before it's even begun!

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Daffy 2 years, 8 months ago

Virtual High School was end all that was going to help those troubled kids that couldn't make it in the classroom. Using the same logic, this must mean that virtual SRS will help those troubled clients that can't make it is society. One on one doesn't work with troubled students. One on one will not work for troubled clients.

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HollisBrown 2 years, 8 months ago

Get ready. You're gonna see more and more of this stuff happening. It's a raw deal, but I don't think it has as much to do with Brokeback as it does Microsoft. Look, in the not-so-distant future, everyone will be forced to have a computer. Let's look at the Dept of Labor. Until the late 90's, there used to be an unemployment office in every county or region in KS. In most cases it was the Workforce Center, where you could file and get assistance with unemployment issues with a real person. At some point, the Dept. of Labor opened a call center and moved to a website. You now have 2 options to file unemployment, either the phone or the website. The workforce centers are not even allowed to assist you, accept in letting you use one of the phones. And forget calling. You're looking at a 1-2 hour wait, if your able to navigate the complex menu. The website works smoothly, just don't expect any personalized service. And where exactly is the unemployment office? It's somewhere deep in the DOL building in Topeka, but it might as well not exist since you can't actually go in there. There is a physical address but there is no one there to talk to. I used to work for a government contractor here in town, and they can't wait for our oldest generation to move on so the next generation on down will have computers and won't expect to see a human face. Virtual Society, here we come." Expect more state agencies to follow.......

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Peanutcat 2 years, 8 months ago

My sister is an employee at the Lawrence SRS office andI cannot sit around any longer and not tell some of the things she is telling me. First, they are only feeding the employees bits of info by giving them updates by email on Friday afternoons, probably so they can worry about it over the weekend and be more calm on Monday. There are NO Lawrence employees involved in this planning process. They have said that once all of the decisions are made, Lawrence employees will be involved. This Friday they dropped the bombshell that NO Lawrence employees will be allowed to transfer to the Topeka office because it would be too difficult to figure out how to transfer the cases between regions. They have finally said the the current cases would transfer to wherever the current worker goes. What that means is that Douglas County SRS customers will not have a say in where their case is managed unlike the rest of the State. SRS says that once all of the moves have been made, customers will be able to request a case transfer, but it will only be granted if there are enough people to work the cases at the other locations.

My sister says that they have come to realize that the intent of SRS is to pretty much transfer all of the employees to the Kansas City office, which would create a hardship on all of the employees affected. Of course there are the additional travel expenses, if you have a decent enough vehicle that can make the drive, but it also creates a problem for those with young children in school or daycare who are on tight schedules such as my sister. She says she will not able to make the move because it is at least a hour's drive one-way which makes her work day at least 10 hours. Extra cost there and if you're late day care late fees are enormous.

SRS has told the employees that they will be required to sign a form stating that they agree to the relocation. If they don't and try to file for unemployment it will be up to them to convince the Department of Labor that the move created a hardship for them.

She says that they are going to begin tearing down offices this week. The goal is to get the closure done before anyone has a chance to do anything about it. Meetings and rallys are nice, ,but the only way this closure will be stopped is if they are held right on the capitol steps. Continue with the phone calls and emails, they cannot ignore them all. Politics as normal is not going to work in this case. While we're negotiating, they're taking action!

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sjgreen 2 years, 8 months ago

How are the other communities who are losing their SRS offices reacting? Is there anything to be gained by teaming with them to protest the closures?

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Alceste 2 years, 9 months ago

Not going to work, jhawkinsf. Here's why:

The Lawrence SRS office is part of the KC Metro Region. Topeka SRS office is part of the NE Region.

Earlier, SRS Central Office had given the soon to be displaced Lawrence staff the option of transferring to the Topeka SRS office. SRS Central Office, as of Friday, 22 July has removed that option. SRS Central Office has determined that housing KC Metro Region staff in a NE Region Office is not going to work. It's been taken off the table and the Lawrence SRS workers got an email on Friday, 22 July informing them that if they had selected the Topeka Office as the place they preferred to transfer to, they needed to re-submit their paper work and select an office in the KC Metro Region: Overland Park; KCK; Ottawa; Leavenworth. Too, the Lawrence SRS staff will be keeping their current case loads. Clients will be following their assigned case workers.

The bottom line is that SRS Central Office has no idea what they're going to do or how they're going to adapt/adjust to the Lawrence SRS office closure.

Concluding: THERE IS NO PLAN. THERE WAS NO PLAN. CLOSED. That's it. Brain trust indeed.

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jhawkinsf 2 years, 9 months ago

If the closure of the local SRS office does come to pass, I suggest the "T" schedule a daily run to the Topeka SRS office. It could leave here every working day at around 9:00 arriving in Topeka a short time later. It could pick them up at say 11:30, returning the passengers in time for lunch. And it gives everyone a couple of hours to conduct whatever business they have. It may not be as good as having an SRS office here but it does help mitigate the loss.

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Phil Minkin 2 years, 9 months ago

I still haven't seen any follow up to the story about the lease for the SRS building. Is the state still on the hook for rent or were they able to break the lease?

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justajoke 2 years, 9 months ago

The top dogs will never so up to these meetings because they don't have any answers. They continue to screw the employees and consumers. The once a week email to the staff to keep them informed (joke) was to tell them that even though they sent an email last week asking them to list their preferences of offices to work in, now Topeka isn't an option. They have no clue what they are doing and really don't care about how they treat the employees. This just tells me if they don't care about them it is going to be sad to watch how they treat the people that really need the help. Think about the elderly people that have to fill out the application to put a spouse or sibiling in a nursing home. Those are so had to understand and the documentation required is huge. These people are going to be required to drive up and down the 4 lane highways to do this. ? Ha. This so called Gov and his administration are the worst. They are only concerned about firing current employees( wait I forgot they are retiring) and bring in more head bobbing puppets from Florida.

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Cait McKnelly 2 years, 9 months ago

Once again, notice that no representative from SRS was present. Not only are Brownback and Siedlecki shutting this office down; it would appear they are doing it in such a way to maximize the damage being caused. No coordination planning with local agencies to pick up what they can in the vacuum left by the SRS closure is even more of an indication that this is politically motivated. Too bad that KCK and Lawrence can't just secede from the state and join Missouri. MO would pee all over itself to get a university with the stature, history and basketball revenue of KU. KCK can join with KCMO to become one of the largest metropolitan cities in the country.

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Alceste 2 years, 9 months ago

Isn't it......and you're dang close to the point: Them "legislators" are too busy fussing about their own money and nickle and dime bull butter to watch the real show that Brownback scripted a couple of years back. The closure of the Lawrence SRS office is but the tip of the Iceberg, buddy. Buckled in? That rough ride is coming......just as Nixon did to the Nation with Community Development Block Grants ("Locals know what's best, afterall), Brownback is going to do again: Give dimes to the locals when the state had been giving dollars which is going to compel the locals to either raise taxes and provide the services locally, or do without. Which side are you on? It's the legislature, stupid, to paraphrase James Carville.....

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Alceste 2 years, 9 months ago

state Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence; state Rep. Terri Lois Gregory, R-Baldwin City; House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence; state Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence were all too busy troubling themselves and their time over their own magical funding for themselves of their future KPERS benefits to worry about Lawrence and closure of the Lawrence SRS office before it became too late. As the planning was done by Brownback to close the Lawrence SRS office, these political hacks were busily anticipating their own KPERS windfalls given the way they permit themselves to calculate the benefit. In reality, these "leaders" were busy counting their money rather than in the minding the store.

To determine a legislator's KPERS benefit, his pay is annualized, treated as if the job entailed full-time employment and full-time pay.

"Even though they only really earn that for several months of the year, they get credit for earning it all year long,".......

For the legislator listing all income - the daily rate, subsistence and allowance - this is how annualization is calculated:

•$88.66 (daily rate) x 31 (days) x 12 (months) = $32,981.52

•$123 (subsistence) x 31 (days) x 12 (months) = $45,756

•$7,083 non-session allowance.

Altogether, that equals $85,820.52, and that's the pay figure that would be used for that legislator retiring now.

The Senate president and House speaker are at the top of the pay scale, and annualized pay for those posts could be as high as $99,859.74, depending on their enrollment choices.

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