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St. Lawrence County to rent space to Children’s Home of Jefferson County

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CANTON — St. Lawrence County legislators agreed Monday to rent the former office of the Industrial Development Agency to Children’s Home of Jefferson County even though they may oust them later for county workers, perhaps from the Department of Social Services.

The county is conducting an overall review of its department’s requirements for expansion, storage and other needs. Part of the study will look at whether all of the Department of Social Services — now cramped in the Harold B. Smith building on Judson Street — could move to the Canton Human Services building on Route 310.

The Human Services building — home to the Department of Motor Vehicles, Community Services and Public Health — has a larger footprint than the Smith building but moving the DMV, which has a drive-through, could prove difficult.

“We’d have to have the architect look at it,” Governmental Services Director Michael J. Cunningham said.

The IDA moved at the beginning of the year to its new office on Commerce Lane. Public Health will need less office space once its Certified Home Health Agency closes later this year.

Children’s Home of Jefferson County has rented space within the One Stop Career Center at the Human Services building since last year when it began taking over from DSS the recruitment and training of foster care parents.

“They keep expanding, and they need more space,” Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire said.

The Children’s Home of Jefferson County needs room for 17 to 20 people, she said. Moving into the IDA’s former office would allow the agency to provide supervised visitation there.

The contract approved by the Finance Committee leases the former IDA office for an annual rent of $54,000 with the understanding the space is on a month-to-month basis. The money amounts to about 65 percent of what the IDA was paying.

“We’re getting nothing for it now,” Ms. St. Hilaire said.

The Human Services building — owned by the nonprofit Canton Human Services Initiatives — was set up so that county agencies would rent its space for higher reimbursements than if the county owned the building outright. Housing DSS in the building could mean a reimbursement of about 62 percent. Therefore, a space study might conclude it makes more sense for county workers to be in the building than an outside agency.

“The idea was to make money on it,” Legislator Alex A. MacKinnon, R-Fowler, said. “I suspect that’s still the case.”

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