SCHENECTADY COUNTY — Schenectady County plans to consolidate its child welfare and juvenile justice programs into a single location in downtown Schenectady early next year.
In what will start the most significant reorganization of county office space in years, the county Probation Department, Office of Children and Family Services, Juvenile Justice Center and Child Advocacy Center will relocate to 388 Broadway in a building the county will lease.
The location previously housed the county Board of Elections, which moved last year. Under the terms of a 25-year lease approved Monday by the County Legislature's Public Facilities, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, landlord Highbridge Development Corp. of Schenectady will add a second story to the building and renovate the downstairs. That work is to be complete by January, with move-in expected before Feb. 1.
"For all practical purposes, we will have a new building," said Donald Scheuer, the county facilities engineer.
The county will pay about $700,000 per year in rent under the lease agreement, which will run from 2019 through 2023, with two five-year extension options. The move allows the county to end other leases, so the net cost to the county will be about $280,000 per year, according to county officials.
The property includes 200 parking spaces, which county officials said was another key consideration. The lease also gives the county the right to purchase the property at five-year intervals after the first 10 years of the lease.
The consolidation will bring departments that frequently interact with each other on child welfare issues under one roof. It will also free up space in the County Office Building at 620 State St. for other departments, county officials said.
"This new location will allow us to relieve overcrowded conditions in the County Office Building, as well as improve interdepartmental communications between Children and Family Services and our Juvenile Justice Center and probation departments," said Legislature Chairman Anthony Jasenski, D-Rotterdam.
With Monday's committee approval, the full County Legislature will consider the proposed lease on March 13.
An additional reason for moving the offices is that county officials anticipate the workload for probation's juvenile program and social services will increase starting in October, when a new Raise the Age law takes effect. Under that law, 16- and 17-year olds who have faced criminal charges in adult court will have their cases heard in family courts, where proceedings are non-criminal.
Officials said there is also a significant overlap between the families involved with the Office of Child and Family Services and those involved with the juvenile justice system, including juvenile probation. All those officials are at different locations now — some in county buildings, and some in leased space.
"From my perspective, there are significant advantages to being co-located with the Probation Department," said county Social Services Commissioner Paul Bray, whose department oversees the Office of Children's and Family Services.
When the space in the County Office Building now occupied by the Probation Department becomes vacant, county officials are looking at providing some of that space to the information technology and human resources departments and the family courts. They are also considering moving the conflict defender's office from rented space into the county building/county court complex, saving on rental costs.
"It [relieves] a lot of our tight-space issues," said County Manager Kathleen Rooney. "I'm not one for spending money, but I believe, in this case, it's a good investment."