Pending close of DFS office creates stir in Marble Hill

Friday, January 24, 2003

MARBLE HILL, Mo. -- Citing significant shortfalls in the state budget, Missouri Division of Family Services officials announced last week that the Bollinger County Division of Family Services office will close within three months.

State Rep. Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, expressed disappointment over the announcement and invited residents to speak out on the matter.

"I received a call on Friday about noon telling me that they were going to shut down the DFS office here," Jetton said. "Is this the most effective way to save money? I don't think so."

The Bollinger County location is one of three DFS offices statewide set for closure, the other two being in Holt and Putnam counties.

DFS workers said they were told that the closures were announced for offices with 15 or fewer employees. The lease on the DFS office here, which is $24,000 a year, is also coming due, which was cited as another reason for its closure.

Jetton said the closure of the office, located across from Pellegrino Park in Marble Hill, is a good example of government bureaucracy seeking cuts in the wrong places.

"You see a lot of waste in Jefferson City and then you see cuts like this," he said.

The office employs 12 people and handles such services as food stamps and Medicaid. Each of the office's five caseworkers serves around 325 families, which translates into close to 2,000 people, many of them elderly and children.

Debbie Masters, a caseworker at the local DFS, said the closure will negatively affect the office's clientele.

"If the people here can't come to a DFS office in their own county, that will be hard on them," she said.

Masters noted that the Bollinger County DFS employees will be transferred to area counties.

"So we will all have jobs, but our people here won't have a local place to come to," she said.

Jetton said he understood that a state law exists requiring each county to have a DFS office.

On Tuesday, the Bollinger County Commission drafted a letter to Gov. Bob Holden asking that cuts be made in larger DFS offices statewide, thus allowing the local office to remain open.

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