LEWISTON — A $200,000 renovation of the southern end of City Hall’s second floor could ease crowding and improve privacy for the social services office, officials said.

“It’s a question of confidentiality, security and a healthy working environment for staff,” Social Services Director Sue Charron said. “It’s been a necessary thing for some time, but it’s coming up now because we are seeing so many people.”

Councilors will discuss that plan and several others at Tuesday’s City Council work session when they review the capital plan and a $2.9 million city bond package. That meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

Charron said the number of people seeking General Assistance continues to increase. As many as 700 people come to the office each month seeking  help paying for food, heat or medicine.

“We’ve gone to appointments, and we’ve stopped giving appointments on a weekly basis,” she said. “We now see people on a biweekly, or sometimes a monthly basis. We’ve had to because of the number of people we see, and the limited amount of staff we have.”

Currently, people register at a window at the far end of the second floor hall, then go to a waiting room on the right.

City caseworkers meet with their clients in a small room attached to the waiting area. The rest of the social services office, which extends to the eastern end of the building, is used for caseworkers’ desks and files.

The new floor plan wouldn’t add space now, but it would divide it up differently.

“It’s critical because of the amounts of people we are seeing,” she said. “The space we’re in now is not really conducive to a healthy working environment. When you have people sitting right on top of each other all day long, things can get a little tense.”

Clients would come directly into a waiting room on the second floor, just off of the Park Street entrance, and register there. When it’s their turn, they would go down an internal hallway to one of five desks to meet with their caseworker.

It should provide better privacy for the clients, and better security for the caseworkers, Charon said.

“We are the last resort for a lot of these people, and they are really down on their luck,” she said. “If they get denied, or we send them off to get some documentation, they can get upset. And if we can’t help them at all, we can get some angry people.”

If councilors approve, work would be done this summer. Charon said her caseworkers would need to find a new place to meet with clients during the work — possibly on the first floor.

Councilors will also review the $8.7 million bond package for the School Department. That would pay $5.5 million for the first round of renovations at the McMahon Elementary School and $3 million for fire sprinklers and code improvements at the Middle School.

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