Lucas County Children Services has an open door policy, but officials now believe it may be too open.
As part of the agency's 2007 budget, it has set aside $1.5 million for the renovation of the front entrance at 705 Adams St.
The project is two-fold: To make the waiting and visiting areas more inviting to the public and, perhaps more importantly, to add tighter security.
"This will not only make the building more secure, but it will improve the experience for people who come and go through the building," Julie Malkin, a spokesman for the agency, said.
Children Services Board members approved the agency's $50.4 million budget Wednesday, an amount up $4.2 million over this year's expenditures.
In addition to employee compensation, placement costs, and child welfare contracts, the budget included $1.5 million for the renovations to the main entrance.
The proposal is that Children Services pays for the renovation up front and then deducts the money from the rent it pays Lucas County for use of the building.
The agency pays the county about $900,000 a year to occupy space in the building, including utilities, janitorial services, and rent.
Children Services is proposing to pay $300,000 less a year over the next five years.
"We've been working cooperatively with CSB in an effort to improve and secure the front entrance to make it both more convenient for the public and more safe for the people working there," county Administrator Michael Beazley said.
He said the up-front expense would be worked into the county budget as a capital improvement project.
Children Services has nearly 390 employees, who in 2005 worked with an average of 2,079 children as part of their active caseload.
The recent numbers represent an increase of 36 percent since 1998, the agency said.
About half of the agency's revenue comes from county taxpayers in the form of two county-wide levies totaling 2.4 mills.
Children Services also receives funding from the federal government, the state of Ohio, and other sources.
Executive Director Dean Sparks said that plans to renovate the front entrance were first discussed a few years ago when a child left the building to get into a relative's car without the knowledge of the agency's staff members.
He said that by adding the renovations into the Children Services' budget, the project can move forward next year.
"All we have is a concept. We don't have any architectural plans yet," he said. "We're a family-oriented agency. We want to maintain that family orientation while keeping our children and staff safe."
Currently, visitors are asked to check in with the front desk when entering the Children Services building, but that does not always happen.
Ms. Malkin said preliminary thoughts on the design of the new entrance would include an atrium built out into what is now part of the sidewalk.
She added that security equipment also would be upgraded.
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