County offices sign Memorandum of Understanding

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 6, 2003

It's not every day when state officials in Columbus come to Lawrence County and tell the people they're doing a good job.

It is rarer still when those state officials say the people here are role models for their counterparts in other counties. But it happened Wednesday.

State leaders were on hand when representatives from more than 14 agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding, a formal, written agreement on how the agencies will operate together to help people find employment, job training and a way out of poverty.

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"Basically, it tells us how to do business by bringing the different agencies together and the different structures that each of them have and try to make it work as a one-stop without duplication," said Buddy Martin, director of the Lawrence County Department of Jobs and Family Services.

Lawrence County has had a one-stop workforce development center that provided employment assistance, job training and unemployment benefits for more than six years. This memorandum of understanding is meant to finalize the procedures they use to coordinate their services to the community. In addition to state and local offices of ODJFS, other agencies involved include the Community Action Organization, Ironton City Schools, Lawrence County Commission, Collins Career Center, Ohio University Southern,

Workforce Investment Act, Lawrence Economic Development Corporation, Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation, Housing Urban Development, and Experience Works, an agency that helps people over the age of 55 find employment.

"Most difficult part is the cost-sharing," said Tom Hutter, program coordinator with Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services.

"Crossing over fiscal guideline, that was the biggest hurdle to get over." Hutter pointed out that some of the agencies involved are local, others ate state-funded, still others are federal programs. Each has its own set of procedures and funding issues. The memorandum is an attempt to traverse the boundaries of each agency and provide streamlined service to people who need help.

"The important thing, we haven't sacrificed service to the clients during this procedure," Martin said. "John Q. Public walking in here doesn't know things have changed and that's the way it was meant to be."

Lawrence County was selected as a pilot county more than a year ago, and used more or less an a guinea pig as officials experimented with how to build a formal process under which all the different agencies would work. Only one other county in the state has a memorandum of understanding. Those who do not yet have one of their own will use Lawrence County's success as a model for developing their own agreement.