Grant gives boost to Walla Walla County social services project

Walla Walla County has recieved $1 million to help pay for work at the service center in Walla Walla.

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The Washington state Department of Commerce announced Thursday that Walla Walla County will receive $1 million for its ongoing community service center project.

In December, county officials approved a $2.1 million loan from the county's investment pool to buy the building now housing the county's Human Services Department at 1520 Kelly Place, off Dalles Military Road. The loan to the Human Services Department will be paid back over 10 years by the department and other agencies expected to move into the building.

The concept of a centralized location housing private, non-profit, and public agencies that provide various social services to low- to moderate income citizens within the community has been a long-range plan, county officials said.

The project began with a 2007 grant-funded feasibility study undertaken by the county, and has had continuing support and backing by provider agencies and clients throughout the county, Daryl Daugs, Human Services Department director, said.

Slated to take up residence are Blue Mountain Action Council, Helpline, Blue Mountain Heart to Heart and Friends of Children of Walla Walla, Daugs said previously.

This morning he explained those agencies will fill the new space and there is a waiting list of six to eight agencies interested as well.

Getting the state grant will allow the project to be improved upon, Daugs said. "This allows us to enhance services -- better (Americans with Disabilities Act) access, a more efficient ventilation and air system, better technology for the building and a better configuration of space."

Ultimately, the improvements made through the grant will save on operating costs, he said, adding the announcement "is not only great news for the disabled and disadvantaged of Walla Walla County, but a nice chunk of change for Walla Walla County."

The Department of Commerce gave grants to 18 cities and counties in the state, totaling $13 million in federal money. The Community Development Block Grant program targets assistance to benefit lower-income people in rural areas.

The selected projects will improve rural community water, sewer and street systems; construct housing, fire protection and social services facilities; and provide loans to microenterprises. The 18 projects were selected from 43 grant applications requesting more than $31 million.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322.

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