State agencies moving from Wichita building

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- Nine state agencies will be leaving the Finney State Office Building in Wichita, meaning more than 700 people will be moving when new office space can be found, state officials said.

The state is looking for a new building in Wichita for the agencies, The Wichita Eagle reported ( ).

More than 550 of the state employees in the building work for the Department of Children and Families, which has its work space spread over seven floors, making it difficult to efficiently serve a growing list of clients efficiently, said DCF regional director Diana Bidwell.

"And so we're going up and down and up and down and up and down all day long to get the clients served as fast as we can," Bidwell said. "It's just very fragmented."

A change in department operations makes the move necessary, she said. In the past, DCF clients dropped off applications and then waited as long as a month to hear whether they were eligible for services. In 2011, the state switched to what it calls a one-touch business model, which means clients may have to wait a couple of hours to be seen, but 75 percent of them learn the same day if they qualify for benefits.

The department is handling about 45,000 cases and the number is expected to increase, making the Finney building's inefficiencies even more of a problem, Bidwell said.

Because many clients bring children or other family members with them, the department needs a lobby for about 300 people, forcing the agency to continually monitor whether it is within fire code, she said. Files must be kept on different floors from clients, there are not enough meeting rooms and the parking lot is a block away, she said.

"We can't continue to serve clients in this structure," she said.