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Prescott DES office moving to PV next year

Patrick Whitehurst/The Daily Courier
The Prescott office for the Arizona Department of Economic Security on Gurley Street will close next year, with a new building opening in Prescott Valley. The closure of the local branch has some residents concerned the government agency will be more difficult to get to.

PRESCOTT - Sohail Ali has a heart condition that prevents him from driving a vehicle. When he needs assistance, he relies on the help of others, including the People Who Care organization and the Coalition for Compassion and Justice (CCJ). Often, those agencies will assist him in getting to appointments, including those at the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) office on Gurley Street.

DES officials confirmed Thursday, however, they will close their Gurley Street location and move from Prescott to a new site in Prescott Valley in 2014.

According to DES special projects public information officer Bryan Pahia, the new site is expected to open in May of next year. Construction crews broke ground June 17 off Yavapai Road in Prescott Valley. Most of the DES staff will move to the new location next year, though 22 employees will transfer to the DES location on Ainsworth Drive in Prescott to oversee local Child Protective Services operations, according to DES Supervisor Mark Kendall.

"There are two multi-service centers, one in Prescott and one in Prescott Valley. The two are going to be combined and will both be in Prescott Valley, with the exception of Child Protective Services. They will have an office on Ainsworth Drive in Prescott," Kendall said. "If you're trying to get food stamps or you need employment administration, like job leads, or vocational rehabilitation services, or child care, or disability services, anything like that, you will have to go to Prescott Valley."

Pahia, in a June 21 emailed statement, said the facility is being built to "better serve individuals in need of safety net supports in Arizona."

Besides receiving support from DES at the new location, individuals will also be able to receive assistance from other organizations and agencies that may be located under the same roof, Pahia said.

"This construct demonstrates the positive outcomes that can come from the partnership between public and private entities toward the common goal of growing the capacity of the consumer and, where possible, reducing their dependency on safety net supports," Pahia said.

Ali, however, believes the move will make it harder for Prescott DES clients to seek assistance. Local assistance, he said, may not be provided for trips longer than a few miles.

"Whenever I need to go to DES, I rely on People Who Care transportation. Other people depend on public transportation. They will have real challenges getting out to Prescott Valley. I am all in favor of keeping it here," Ali said. "Sometimes change helps and sometimes change hurts. I believe, in this particular situation, the change will hurt a lot of people."

DES officials also are working with transportation agencies on extending bus lines for those in Prescott who may not be able to reach the PV location, Pahia said.

According to CCJ Executive Director Gail Kenny, transportation is a concern for many in the area. Many DES clients, she said, also frequent CCJ.

"For the people we serve who don't live very close to PV, transportation is a big issue," Kenny said. "We provide them with assistance and some of that is even transportation. That's not a big issue when it's less than a mile down Gurley Street. Having to send them to Prescott Valley means higher transportation costs."

Members of the CCJ Board of Directors also are concerned about the move and its possible effects in Prescott as well, she said.

"We hope the transportation system will be available at that time to make it easier on people, otherwise we're locking people out of services they need," Kenny said. "We know we've got less than a year to figure things out and to try to help people make that transition."

Like Sohail Ali, Julia Crites also utilizes services through DES at the Gurley Street location. She said she believes transportation issues will prevent many from getting to the new Prescott Valley office.

"If DES is kept in Prescott, it would better help the people in need here. Not everyone has the transportation to get to Prescott Valley," she said.

Officials with the Prescott Transit Authority said they have not heard of any DES plans for local transit between Prescott and Prescott Valley as of yet.

Follow reporter Patrick Whitehurst on Twitter @pwdcourier.


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