DSS renovations will increase work space

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The Wilson County Department of Social Services is getting a nearly $1 million facelift in the upcoming months.

The renovations, slated to begin in sometime in February, will bring the agency into federal compliance regarding facility space regulations for staff and its main building, officials said.

County commissioners unanimously approved the construction contract for the project earlier this month during their regular meeting. Several bids for the improvements were received in December. Commissioners awarded to the contract to Durham-based ACH Constructors.

“We will be renovating the front area of our main building, including the lobby and reception areas, and the second floor of our warehouse building,” said Lori Walston, DSS’ communications director.

The DSS warehouse is located directly behind the main building.

Walston said the agency is out of compliance with federal rules for staff workspaces in its main building. And moving staff from the former Career Plus location into the main facility further escalated overcrowding issues with employee office space, jeopardizing customer confidentiality.

“Our main building also does not currently meet safety standards for employees and customers,” she said.

DSS officials said that a vulnerability assessment completed for the agency in 2017 identified several concerns related to employee and customer safety, specifically in the main entrance and reception areas.

The agency is financing the improvements with federal DSS revenue. The amount of the contract is just below $1 million coming in at $998,435, according to officials. No county dollars will be spent on the renovations, Walston added.

Walston said DSS leaders don’t have a specific date as to when the renovations will begin, but they anticipate it will start soon. Once officials meet with the contractor, they will solidify a date, which they hope will be early February.

“Our target date is for the project to be completed by mid-July,” she said.

DSS officials said that once the renovations are completed, they will be able to provide faster service delivery and a safer environment for customers.

“The project is important for public and employee safety,” Walston said. “It will allow us to fully implement our one-and-done model (for) quick response customer service delivery.”

Officials said it will also bring the agency into compliance with federal facility space requirements and help provide services more efficiently to DSS clients.