Those who have visited Wake County’s Eastern Regional Center in the past couple months probably noticed construction signs, the smell of fresh paint and the notices of adjusted hours posted on the front door.
It’s all part of a renovation that began in November to enhance accessibility at the Zebulon-based center, which offers an array of general county services, and social- and health-related services. The work is also intended to give the facility aesthetic and technological boosts.
“It’s going to be a really nice improvement for our customer service,” said Darryl Blevins, the ERC’s director. “This is a great opportunity to help some of our less fortunate families who don’t have access to computers.”
Center leaders put in a request a few years back for updates to the then-10-year-old facility, and Wake County approved the request last year.
Blevins said the project is expected to cost $300,000-$400,000. The work is on schedule to be complete by mid-February and a community open house should follow in March.
One of the most significant changes will be to the NCWorks Career Center at the site. What was formerly a two-station cubby with one attendant will more than double in size to house two attendants and eight stations.
(The former space) was so small, you could only get those two people in there with the one worker.
Eastern Regional Center Director Darryl Blevins
For strictly job-related purposes, people will have access to computers, fax machines, printers and copiers, and can complete initial online application for any of the ERC’s programs. They will be able to register with NCWorks, and get help with resumes, job searching, and finding state benefits websites.
The expanded space comes at a time when the ERC is upping its focus on employment services and is working to arrange monthly hiring events, hosting companies that are looking to bring on new workers.
“It’s so folks don’t have to got to Raleigh to look for jobs, and the same access you have there we will have here in this facility,” Blevins said. (The former space) was so small, you could only get those two people in there with the one worker.”
Something for everyone
Other improvements will benefit both the center’s patrons and its staff.
There will be two digital message boards in the lobby area displaying information on upcoming events, community partner calendars, and anything else needing to be publicized. That feature will eliminate the need for some of the many informational pamphlets and forms currently situated in the lobby.
Card-access security doors will separate the lobby area from the rest of the building for the first time. Blevins said there has never been a significant security issue at the facility, but that there was one several years ago at another county facility in Raleigh.
“That just kind of made us more aware that things like that could happen, and we wanted to do what we could to protect against that happening, so we put in the request (for security doors) along with the work.”
Some of the spaces at the front of the ERC that can be used for hiring events, job courses and assemblies have been remodeled, as have spaces for county inspectors and public safety workers in the back of the building.
Most of the interior has already received a fresh coat of paint, and new carpet where it existed, and sound-absorption panels will be installed to muffle noise in the open cubicle area where most of the staff is located.
The center will be closed on Fridays until the work is complete. It is open Monday through Thursday with extended hours of 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. to offset the day of closure. However, people can still obtain commonly-used forms in the main entryway on Fridays and return them to the drop box outside.
“We’re trying to have minimal disruption to services,” Blevins said. “We’re closed Friday to let contractors come in and finish the project sooner.”