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Staff members of the Hardin County OSU Extension Office were less than enthusiastic Tuesday when they learned their offices are being relocated from the courthouse to a county-owned building on Kenton’s west side.
The Hardin County Board of Elections will be moved from its current spot on the first floor of the courthouse to the basement offices now used by the extension office. The move is being made to allow access to voters with handicaps and reduce costs to the board. The commissioners had been told five years ago the change was needed, but until the Childreach program was dissolved by the state, no space was easily available for the extension offices.
The state has divided the Childreach services among other county agencies and its office at the county’s building on West Lima Street has an opening. The eastern half of the building is used by the title department of the clerk of court’s office and the Department of Motor Vehicles. According to the plan set on the table by the commissioners, the extension office would share the western side of the building with the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) program.
The commissioners asked the extension office staff to consider the option last month and suggested they visit the facility. The staff toured the building and returned to the commissioners with a list of concerns.
The issues included technology concerns, a loss of space, problems with the kitchen area of the new location, security and storage space.
One-by-one, the commissioners responded to each of the concerns at Tuesday’s meeting.
“We have come to you several times,” said Commissioner Ed Elliott. “We are trying to figure things out. The three of us feel it would be best for you to move to the title department.”
The commissioners said they would cover the cost of moving the office, remodeling the current office and making arrangements for storage space within the courthouse if necessary for the move to take place.
The commissioners would consider adding onto the building, if possible, for a meeting room and storage space on the south side of the structure.
“There is no 100 percent right answer,” said Commissioner Brice Beaman. “This is not an easy thing to ask or expect.”
“Figure how you want the floor plan to look like and get back to us,” said Elliott.
“It is your space. How you utilize it is your business,” said Beaman.
The renovation and move is expected to begin this summer.
Former president of the extension office’s board of advisors, Bob White, saw positive things for the agency as a result of the move. There will be more parking, he noted.
“I’m tickled to death about this. In time, this will be really good for the extension office,” said White.
Beaman noted the office would also now have access to green space for various projects.
But the staff remained skeptical.
“Parking is a plus only if they have a place to meet once they get there,” said Educator Kathy Oliver.
But faced with the decision the move would take place, Educator Gene McCluer said the staff needs to make the best of the situation.
“Our job is to make this work best for our staff and our clientele,” he told the commissioners. “But none of us want to undergo this move.”
The decision was not made lightly, said Beaman, but was necessary due to the state’s demands on the board of elections.
“It sounds like they (commissioners) are willing to work with us,” said McCluer after the session. “There are still issues to work out, but you didn’t hear them ask us if we want to go. That’s off the table.”
By DAN ROBINSON
Times staff writer