DHS opens for business on GoG Road

       Under its new name, “Citizens Service Center,” the office building formerly known as Corporate Ridge opened to the public March 28, as scheduled, when the El Paso County Department of Human Services (DHS) began seeing clients at the three-story facility at 1675 W. Garden of the Gods Road.

On March 28, the first day that the Depart-ment of Human Services (DHS) opened to the public in the new Citizens Service Center, administrator Arturo Serrano (standing at right) answers a question from someone in the food assistance waiting area.
Westside Pioneer photo

       In all, the move involved 500 employees - 410 with DHS and another 90 in non-profit programs under contract with DHS, according to county spokesperson Dave Rose. No major problems arose, although a reporter's visit to DHS' previous two-building complex on North Spruce Street saw occasional vehicles swinging into the now-vacant lot and their drivers educating themselves from a county-posted metal sign that states the agency's new location.
       Marian Percy, the DHS' deputy administrator for child welfare, said clients will benefit from the new site's parking availability (more than 1,000 spots in a four-level garage next door, compared to the 300-space parking lot at Spruce), the consolidated services (everything on the third floor instead of spread over two buildings) and five program-specific waiting areas (instead of a single area for all, as it was on Spruce).
       Getting to the 1675 site requires turning south onto a private drive off Garden of the Gods Road between Arrowswest Drive and Centennial Boulevard. People can park for free on the ground level of the parking garage. The 1675 building must be entered from the west door (nearest to the garage).
       Mike Morrissey, owner of Drive-In Liquors, located in a small commercial center off Bijou Street just north of the Spruce facility, said March 29 it was too early to see a business difference, although he expects a drop-off in the sales of tobacco products and lottery tickets.
       A corporate spokesperson for the 7-Eleven at the corner could not be reached for comment, although a store employee's unofficial comment March 29 was that business had been slow since the Spruce closure.

At the old entrance to the County Department of Human Services at 105 N. Spruce St., a si0gn (right) now directs clients to the new location at 1675 Garden of the Gods Road.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The county's schedule now calls for the Health Department and Pikes Peak Workforce Center to join DHS during July and August, Rose said. They will take over the second floor of 1675, which had originally been constructed for office use by the Intel chip-making company. Before closing about two years ago, Intel had not developed the second floor, which made the space “a good match because the Health Department requires specialized space for medical equipment, refrigeration, laboratory equipment and examination rooms, so those are being built 'from scratch.'” Rose said.
       The offices of the Clerk and Recorder, Treasurer and Assessor will be located on the center's first floor. The plan is stage those moves in September “to avoid things like property taxes due, tax lien sales, election traffic, assessor appeals and similar events that are driven by the calendar,” Rose said.
       The Garden of the Gods Road facility will also house a redundant information technology area, which will include secure public safety communications and data as well as legal records, court-related information and property and mapping data, he said.
       The county's Emergency Management office had or-iginally been slated to go to the Citizens Service Center as well, but a decision was made later to consolidate it with the Sheriff's operations “for greater efficiency,” Rose said. This will put emergency operations with the Sheriff's Office when it moves to the current County Office Building downtown about nine months from now.
       On the third floor at 1675, the cubicles and other work areas already existed from the Intel days. So when DHS moved from Spruce, it took over those spaces while leaving theirs behind for potential use by future owners or tenants there.
       Rose pointed out that the two DHS buildings on Spruce and the two Health Department buildings on Union Boulevard will be offered “for sale and redevelopment.”
       Percy said the space on the Citizens Service Center's third floor is “as big as nine football fields.” Here are some of the numbers released about the move, which had started in January but mostly took place between March 18 and 28: 589 phones, 27 faxes, 58 printers and 544 computers.

Westside Pioneer article