April 20, 2001 11:00 pm

Jobs program needs

to be part of one-stop

A concept that was borne about two years ago to bring Union Countys social service agencies together at one easily accessible place is gaining momentum and appears headed to fruition. But while the effort to bring a one-stop center to Union County seems to have found a funding strategy, one key player is missing from the mix. The local Employment Department office should be part of the countys one-stop center.

The plan for an Integrated Services Building has the Department of Human Services, Adult and Family Services, Services to Children and Families, the Community Partnership Team, the food stamp program, and the private non-profit agencies Community Connection and Training and Employment Consortium all operating out of a new building on Gekeler Lane. The only critical link thats missing is the employment office.

The concept behind one-stop services makes sense. People who are in a situation that requires social services, even if its only temporary, can be better served when all of the programs that can help them are situated together. People looking for work need the same resources, even if pride tells them their situation is only temporary and they can make it without other assistance. The services are available for a reason. Its why we pay taxes.

The Employment Department wants to remain on Adams or Island avenues, apparently because of presumed accessibility issues. But a building on Gekeler Lane, one of

La Grandes collector streets, would not be so far removed that it would inhibit people who are filing unemployment claims or seeking job services to get to where they need to go.

The Integrated Services Building, as proposed, would be constructed on the Eastern Oregon University Campus between the Short Stop mini-mart and the Forestry and Range Sciences lab. The building, which has been proposed to the states Department of Administrative Services and would be paid for through state revenue bonds or other funding options, would cost about $4 million. After 15 years, it would revert to the university for additional office and classroom space. By then the university, with its plan to grow enrollment, should need the space. At that time the one-stop center can expand to a new site, which in turn will stimulate more growth in our community.

The idea to put social service agencies together makes sense. The existing state office building at 1901 Adams Ave. doesnt have the space that is needed. Moving the services would open that property to commercial development, which the downtown will need with Safeway moving in the next year to its new site down the street at Adams and Willow. The east end of Adams is due for some renovation, and Safeways move is likely to make that happen.

But if the one-stop concept is going to have the impact on social services that it is designed to have, the Employment Department needs to be part of the mix.