Topeka Three other cities have joined Lawrence in paying the state welfare agency to keep their local offices open, it was announced Thursday.
Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services Secretary Robert Siedlecki Jr. said the effort shows that the administration was willing to negotiate.
“Unlike previous administrations, we were more than willing to meet with local governments to work out deals to keep SRS offices open,” Siedlecki said.
“They keep their local office and SRS meets its budget-cutting criteria. Everyone wins,” he said.
Douglas County Commissioner Mike Gaughan had a different take on the issue.
“I suppose it is a case of better late than never,” Gaughan said. “I’m sure SRS clients and their families and SRS employees would have preferred SRS reach out to local communities before making announcements like this if they are really interested in partnerships.”
SRS announced July 1 it was closing the Lawrence office and eight other offices as a cost-cutting move. Lawrence was by far the largest, with 87 employees and thousands of clients.
Social service advocates and local officials erupted in protest, saying closing the Lawrence office made no sense. Gov. Sam Brownback and Siedlecki said SRS clients could access services on the Internet or travel to nearby cities. But advocates said that wasn’t realistic.
Lawrence and Douglas County officials eventually crafted a deal with SRS to pay $450,000 to keep the office open for two years. Fort Scott, Pratt and McPherson made similar deals where local governments agreed to pay SRS’ costs to keep the offices open.
The other five offices on SRS’ hit list will close Sept. 30. Those are Coffeyville, Garnett, Lyndon, Marysville and Wellington.