More office space relieves woes of some county employees

By Lesley Jenkins
star staff

Almost five months has passed since the Buildings and Grounds Committee discussed renovating the white house adjacent to the Carter County Courthouse for offices of Veterans' Services, Planning and Zoning, and Codes Enforcement Personnel.
   Workers from the Northeast Correctional Center and the Carter County Jail have labored almost daily to get the project finished. The only unfinished task as of Monday afternoon was the connection of phone lines.
   The project cost approximately $14,600 and was worth every penny, according to the five workers who are sharing the building. Before opening the doors for the first time Monday, all five worked in a space no bigger than the new reception area.
   The new building contains office space for each person - Chris Schuettler, planning director; Craig Malone, codes enforcement officer; David Batchelder, veterans service officer; Jack Hampton, who is in charge of building and electrical permits and Diane Cannon, receptionist.
   Schuettler said, "It is good to have room to work. The additional space will help us get some work done. It is hard to get anything done when people are stacked on top of people."
   Schuettler said he will benefit from additional space to display all county maps. A separate room has been designated for the maps which are available for public viewing. In the former Planning and Zoning office, there was no adequate room to view the maps especially if more than a few people were in the office.
   Malone now has filing cabinets for mounting files that belong to violators of the county's new litter law.
   According to Batchelder, the veterans service office has changed a great deal from the former one located on the second floor of the courthouse. Many veterans who visit his office were burdened by the small space.
   He recalled a few incidents when disabled veterans tried to get into his office with a wheelchair and experienced difficulty. The new space has a wheelchair ramp, wide hallways and a handicapped-accessible bathroom.
   An eight-chair waiting room is available for visitors waiting to access services Batchelder provides. Veterans services include assistance with filing claims, widow's pensions, filing notices of disagreements and appeals, and applying for medals.
   Batchelder also visits home-bound veterans who aren't able to travel to his office.
   Another hassle existed for customers of the second floor office who only needed to buy a building or electrical permit and were forced to wait due to limited space and the sharing of duties. Jack Hampton will be available for writing permits from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., Monday through Friday.
   According to County Mayor Dale Fair, the offices aren't officially open yet because everything has not been transferred. However, all the employees are trying to operate out of the new building and checking messages at the former office throughout the day.
   "It's not officially open. We are still moving maps and things like that. We have moved the desks and the people. We should be able to say it is officially open by the first of next week," said Fair.
   A name and sign have not been posted for the building, but that will be decided shortly. As for now, everyone is jokingly referring to the new space as The White House.