A celebratory atmosphere surrounded the ribbon cutting of the new Orangeburg County Department of Social Services/Department of Health and Human Services building Friday morning.
The single-story, 30,000-square feet building is located near The Technology Center on Magnolia Street.
"We are proud on this day to give you something that was long overdue," Orangeburg County Administrator Harold Young told those gathered for the ribbon cutting. "The way you deal with citizens, the vulnerable part of our population, is critical to what we have to do in our community.
"We went from one of the worst (facilities) in the state to one of the best in the state," Young said to applause. "We are about getting things done."
The building is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The building officially opened its doors Feb. 11 and houses about 120 employees.
Tours of the building were provided following the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
DSS customer Evelyn Haywood has experienced both facilities and the two are like night and day.
"It is beautiful," she said, while receiving services at DSS Friday morning. "It is clean too, and the people are so nice."
Haywood said the former DSS facility was cramped and old.
"It was nothing like this," she said.
The new building, designed by Columbia-based Studio 2LR Inc., includes several Department of Health and Human Services and economic services interview rooms, job development space, two visiting rooms, an observation room and a board room.
The contractor for the project was O'Cain Construction.
County officials also tout the new building as providing more security to families and children going through the child welfare and foster care systems.
The new building also has a number of windows, unlike the former DSS building on St. Matthews Road, which was formerly warehouse space.
The county will lease the $5.6 million building initially from North Carolina-based Piedmont Companies Inc. and will pay for it later when the proceeds come in from the next round of the 1 percent capital projects sales tax.
Ground was broken on the building in July 2017.
A new DSS building has been a priority of the county for quite some time.
The S.C. Department of Health and Human Services issued a report in 2014 citing a number of problems at the St. Matthews Road facility.
The report said the building had interior and exterior problems, including malfunctioning heating, ventilation and air-conditioning units.
Young acknowledged he keeps hearing from employees about the new building that "'there are no snakes in the building, there are no rats, we got windows."
"This is still county government. The carpet in there is not laced with gold and there are no chandeliers hanging from the roof, but it is comfortable and it is some place to work that is suitable for the citizens of Orangeburg County to do their business and for state employees."
Sen. John Matthews, D-Bowman, said the building "reflects the value of the county.'
"How we serve our citizens and the buildings that we serve them out of is important because it indicates the value and the level or your support. And when you got a building that looks good, feels good, it makes people feel better," he said.
Rep. Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg, whose wife formerly worked at DSS, thanked the employees for their service to the state, noting the building "represents all of us here in Orangeburg County as citizens and taxpayers that we have something that is very presentable and beautiful.
"It makes a difference to those folks who walk in those doors seeking service because it lets them know they are valued as well," Govan said.
Orangeburg County DSS Director Brian Gotses echoed Young that the project "has been a long time coming."
"I am extremely excited for all our employees," he said. "These people have chosen to do God's work and serve the people of Orangeburg County to make it a better place. They show up every day committed to work hard and help others."
Gotses is also happy for clients.
"When they come to seek services and ask for help, they now have a positive and supportive and bright clean place to come into," he said.
Cake and refreshments were served as part of the celebration.
For more information about Orangeburg County DSS, call 803-531-3101.
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