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St. Lawrence County Public Health will close Massena office

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CANTON - The public should not notice a difference in service if the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators finalizes a plan by Public Health to close its Massena office next month.

“We’re not shutting the door on public space. It already has been shut,” Public Health Director Susan J. Hathaway said. “Next on my list to close is the Ogdensburg office if Massena works well.”

Services will not change in Massena because any clinics that would have been in the Public Health office will take place in a community center or senior citizen center, Ms. Hathaway said. Closing the office in Harrowgate Commons will not necessarily save money on the $27,324 annual rent as the lease runs until 2019, but it could be used by other county departments or subleased. It will save Public Health money on copiers, information technology support, telephone and the other costs that come with running an office.

The closure is another in a series of cutbacks for Public Health, which has shrunk in the last few years from 140 employees — some of them part-time — to about 65 mostly full-timers. A Star Lake office closed first. The Gouverneur office was closed last year but clinics continue at Cambray Courts.

The Massena office was left with three employees, but the two Certified Home Health Agency nurses now work from their homes and a Prevent nurse was moved to Canton because of staff reductions, Ms. Hathaway said.

“The office is locked most of the time because no one is there,” she said.

Part of the Gouverneur office is subleased to a counseling group. Public Health’s lease in Gouverneur runs out at the end of the year.

In Massena, Harrowgate Commons is used by Public Health, Community Services, Probation and the Department of Motor Vehicles, which might take over some of the space to have more room for its business handling New York City metropolitan vehicle registrations. The county is working on alternate uses, Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire said.

All four of the county departments were combined in satellite offices under one roof in 2009 after part of the roof of the building Probation was in collapsed.

If the closure of the Massena office goes smoothly, Ms. Hathaway said, she would like to close 206 Ford St. in Ogdensburg, which also has a handful of Public Health employees.

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