Workforce development office to remain in Griffin
by W. Winston Skinner
The Three Rivers Regional Council voted unanimously Thursday to keep the regional, commission’s workforce development office in Spalding County.
Office space in Newnan was considered, but lower costs for a Griffin building were cited as the reason for that choice. It was also noted that much of the workforce development staff lives in the Griffin area.
Moreland resident Ed Bledsoe, who serves on the council and was appointed to serve on the committee considering a new location for the workforce development offices, expressed frustration that he had not been notified about meetings that involved touring some sites considered for the relocation. During the quarterly meeting at the Walter B. Hill Community Center in Turin, Bledsoe noted Newnan is more centrally located than Griffin.
“I understand there was a building in Newnan that really satisfied our needs,” he said. The rent in Newnan, however, was comparable with what is now being paid.
Lanier Boatright, Three Rivers executive director, said the current rent in Griffin is $8,836. The new space that has been found rents for $2,900 per month.
Meriwether County Commission Chair Nancy Jones reported for the relocation committee. She said the new space – owned by Walter Jones – is in an industrial development area in Griffin.
“We have looked at buildings at three different locations in the Newnan area and in the Griffin area,” she said. The proposed location has 6,000 square feet of space with 14 offices and the possibility of expansion.
“It is a very nice building. You would not need to do anything. The carpet is fine. The paint is fine. It has a large open area for a meeting,” she said.
There also is a covered, lighted walkway that is handicapped accessible.
Hays Arnold, chairman of the council, has four-plus decades of experience as a builder. “I found it an extremely attractive building,” he said. “It has great potential.”
“The building is very conducive to the needs” of the program, Nancy Jones said.
Charles Jones of Spalding County said he was familiar with the facility. “It’s a great building. It was designed by an architect,” he said.
The former insurance office featured a vaulted ceiling and is “a great place to meet people,” Charles Jones said.
The lengthiest discussion at Thursday’s meeting concerned a proposal from Boatright to sign a contract with Equifax for information on workforce development clients who have gone to work. The contract was ultimately approved, but three council members – Lee Boone of Heard County, Charles Jones and Steve Stripling of Coweta voted against the proposal.
Boatright said the issue would normally have gone to the workforce development board but it was being brought to the regional council in “the essence of time.” The current interim contract with the Georgia Department of Labor expires Monday.
Under the contract, workforce development staff could get information on clients – “when they got a job, how much they’re making – the detail we have to have for our record-keeping,” Boatright said.
DOL is now charging for the information, and Boatright said there is a time lag – sometimes “a month or two” – in getting information from the state. The Equifax program is “a lot less expensive and its also in real time,” he said.
Equifax would charge $3,400 for information on up to 384 inquiries. Additional inquiries would be $10.24 each.
The Labor Department charged a $4,000 setup fee, plus there is “a large monthly fee to get the information we’re not getting on a timely basis” Boatright said. The Equifax option would “make our program more viable,” he added.
Under the interim contract with DOL, Three Rivers asked for information on 200 people but got data back on less than half. When workforce development staff asked DOL staff about the other workers, they were told, “We don’t know,” Boatright reported.
“Most of the regions in the state do both,” Boatright said – referring to the Equifax and DOL programs.
While he said he had “no problem with just doing the labor department,” Boatright said Equifax would help staff “monitor our efforts in getting people trained and getting them to work.”
Bobby Frazier, who represents Troup County, on the council, said he was familiar with the DOL system. “There are cases where they won’t know for four months” about a particular worker, he said.
With that lag, “we may have spent money on someone who was working that we thought was not working,” Frazier said.
“I think that’s the point,” Arnold said. “There’s an accountability issue. It gives you a better idea of the effectiveness of what’s being done.”
Nancy Jones said she was concerned about who would be in charge of monitoring the Equifax program – stating it “could be really expensive” if not handled property.
Hiett said the state charges every time there is an inquiry, even if no information is available. With Equifax, “we’re getting hours, wages, a lot of the other important information,” he said. “With DOL, were not getting that.”
Hiett recommended Equifax “if we’re wanting to make the most use of our dollars.”
In other business:
• The council heard a report from staff member Joy Shirley on the aging program. She reported federal funding for area aging programs ended up being better than anticipated – with an increase of $243,348.
“Every bit of increase is very good for our program,” she said.
Seeking more state funds is a goal. “We’re going to still advocate for more funding at the state level next year,” Shirley.
In response to a question from Stripling, Shirley said the area agency is working to help seniors know about scammers who target them.
• The council approved completing paperwork so the commission can apply for transportation funds for the region. The agency is seeking federal funds, which would be matched with 20 percent local dollars for a total of $135,000.
• The council heard a report from Hiett on legislative issues related to transportation.
• Jan Edens, commission secretary, received a standing ovation when she was presented with a plaque for 10 years service by Arnold. “I appreciate it,” Edens said.
• Boatright announced employee Julia Crews is retiring and will be honored with a reception on Sept. 12 from 1-4 p.m. at the Three Rivers offices in Franklin.
• It was announced the next meeting will be Oct. 23 at 2 p.m. at the same location.