Around this time next year, about 350 employees will work from a newly constructed East Region office of Franklin County Children Services in Whitehall.

Around this time next year, about 350 employees will work from a newly constructed East Region office of Franklin County Children Services in Whitehall.

Officials from Franklin County Children Services, the city of Whitehall and others gathered April 18 for a groundbreaking ceremony at the future site of the a 96,000-square-foot, three-story facility at 4071 E. Main St.

The agency will move employees from its current East Region office, 205 N. Hamilton Road, and from its Central Region and Intake & Investigation office, 525 E. Mound St., to the new facility at the former site of the Main Lanes bowling alley.

The agency has outgrown its East and Central offices, said Deborrha Armstrong, FCCS communications director. In addition, the Central Region office stands in the way of the proposed rebuilding of Interstates 70 and 71 through the heart of downtown Columbus.

Armstrong said the agency had been exploring options for relocating and consolidating the regional offices prior to choosing the Whitehall site.

In addition to equally cramped quarters at the Central Region office, Armstrong said, the rebuilding of I-70 and I-71 as proposed would put the new freeway "right outside the building," leaving virtually no place for clients to park.

The consolidation in Whitehall is expected to save the agency about $5.5 million in operating costs annually.

The Daimler Group is the builder and Moody Nolan the architect for the $17 million project, funded by the tax levy that supports Franklin County Children Services.

Tom Drumm, supervisor of the East Region office, said he and his employees are looking forward to the move.

"It will be so much more inviting for everyone," said Drumm, adding the existing East Region office has limitations. "We do the best we can with family visitation here."

Drumm said the new facility's outdoors areas and greenspace should help to bolster visitations.

"It will offer a better work environment, too," Drumm said.

Past additions at the existing office have created areas that are not easily accessible, he said.

"The whole day will go by without seeing someone unless you go out of the way," he said. "At the new office, all the employees will be in more common areas."

Although most of the activity at the new East Region office will occur during weekday business hours, the facility is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"Our intake is a 24-7 operation, but no children are housed overnight at the facility," Susan Samuel, purchasing and facilities manager for FCCS, told Whitehall City Council members last year.

A majority of the staff is clerical, but caseworkers and transporters also will work at the center. County sheriff's deputies or private security guards will be on duty at all times.

"Families will have visitations (at the center), and any of 17 police departments (in Franklin County) could bring children here for placement," Samuel said.

About 50 employees will move from the North Hamilton Road office. The remainder will move from the East Mound Street facility.

The agency will maintain its West Region office at 1919 Frank Road, as well as its administrative offices at 855 W. Mound St.

"We are excited that Franklin County Children Services chose the city of Whitehall as their new home," Whitehall Mayor Kim Maggard said. "The groundbreaking event was a great opportunity for all of the key players in the project to come together and celebrate our common goal of helping the many children in need in Franklin County."