DSS moves to new home Nov. 21

Published 7:25 pm Thursday, October 27, 2011

The front of the new home of the Polk County Department of Social Services. (photo by Leah Justice)

Mental health services set to move Monday
The Jervey Palmer building in Tryon will be completely vacated in a few weeks.
The Polk County Department of Social Services (DSS) plans to move into its new building on Nov. 21.
Polk’s mental health services department, run by Family Preservation Services, is also scheduled to move into its new building, located on White Drive in Columbus on Monday, Oct. 31.
Polk County purchased a house on White Drive earlier this year and Family Preservation Services is finishing interior renovations this week, according to Polk County Manager Ryan Whitson.
The new DSS building, located off Wolverine Trail in Mill Spring, is nearing completion. County officials had hoped to be in the new building by the end of this month, but the schedule is for DSS in Tryon to be closed on Friday, Nov. 18 to move and reopen in the new building on Mon., Nov. 21.
The contract timeline is for the construction to be complete by Nov. 14, which Whitson said is on target.

A view of the kitchen in the new DSS bauilding. (photo by Leah Justice)

“We’re really not late as far as the contract goes,” Whitson said. “We had just hoped it would be finished a couple months early.”
The new DSS building is the most high-tech building the county has ever constructed. Opening into the approximate 12,000-square-foot building are double doors that are highly secure with lockout capabilities.
In the hallway that leads to 40 offices, lights are often not needed during the day because of solar tube skylights. Some rooms have sensor lights that come on when someone enters the room and go off minutes after the room is empty.
“I expect the lowest utility bills in this building of any building the county owns per square foot,” said Whitson.
The county opted to make the new DSS building comply with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification standards, which are designed to cut down on energy costs.
The building has full security and video cameras, a conference room, kitchen, break room and storage areas for files. The building also includes a shower for decontamination purposes, such as when staff needs to decontaminate a child taken from a meth lab home, and an observation room that includes a see through mirror.
The budget for the new building is currently on target at $2 million, which includes the building itself, LEED certification, grading of the property, landscaping and utility connections, including water and sewer extensions.
The building is named after Tryon veteran Howard Greene, who was active in the Army during WWII.
The entire campus is smoke free, including no outside smoking, to meet LEED certification regulations.
Landscaping work began this week and will include planting cherry trees on the corner, maples along the front and shrubs around the building, as well as mulching.
Polk commissioners vowed a few years ago to get all county offices out of the Jervey Palmer building in Tryon, which was originally constructed in the late 1920s as St. Luke’s Hospital. The building is aged and costly to maintain.
Commissioners have not yet discussed how the county plans to dispose of the building. The Jervey Palmer building has had several uses since the county began using it in the early 1970s, when the new hospital was built in Columbus. The building most recently housed DSS, mental health services, the Meeting Place senior center and veteran’s services. At times it has housed the county transportation department and Polk County Isothermal Community College, as well as a daycare center run by the DSS.
Polk County has spent approximately $4 million getting its departments out of the Jervey Palmer building, including $2 million to construct the new DSS building, approximately 1.7 million to purchase and renovate the former Carolina Classical School building for the Meeting Place Senior Center and $110,000 to purchase the building for mental health services.
The county also renovated and leased a building behind the senior center to house an adult day care center. The senior center property, located off Skyuka Road in Columbus, also includes 28 acres the county plans to use in the future.
Polk County DSS Director Sue Rhodes is retiring on Monday. Commissioners began interviewing candidates for the position this week but have not yet announced the new director.

The entrance to the new Polk County Human Services building, which will house the department of social services, named in honor of local resident and Army veteran Howard B. Greene. (photo by Leah Justice)

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