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Quick Repairs Ordered for Busiest Welfare Office


Less than a month after an arson fire heavily damaged Los Angeles County's busiest welfare office, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday ordered officials to waste no time in repairing the building and to rent temporary quarters until the work is finished.

The Panorama City branch of the county's Social Services Department was torched early on April 13, causing more than $100,000 in damage and forcing nearly 40,000 San Fernando Valley residents to turn to other facilities for assistance.

Tuesday's unanimous action essentially guarantees that officials will move quickly to take care of the matter instead of allowing it to languish in the county's massive bureaucracy. It authorizes officials to do whatever is necessary to get the office up and running as soon as possible.

All of the repairs and rent for temporary facilities will be covered by insurance.

"It's vitally important that we get moving immediately to locate temporary quarters and re-establish county service while we complete repairs," said Supervisor Ed Edelman, who introduced the motion.

Since the fire, most of the 350 workers who staffed the office at 14545 Lanark St. have been transferred to other locations and clients have been forced to commute to offices in Canoga Park and Glendale for services.

A few county workers have set up a makeshift office on the sidewalk in front of the damaged building to refer people to other offices and process simple transactions, said Bill Reyes, division chief for the Social Services Department.

Reyes said his department is negotiating with the owner of a building across the street to rent temporary offices. He was unsure when those negotiations would be completed.

In addition to repairing damage caused by the fire, Tuesday's action allows county crews and private contractors to clean up asbestos in the building. And the board ordered county officials to report back as soon as a preliminary cost estimate and schedule for repairs is completed.

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