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GEOFF FISK, DESERT DISPATCH
The Barstow Social Security office is scheduled to be closed an consolidated with Victorville's office on March 29. The city received a letter from the Regional Social Security office in San Francisco Jan. 17 informing them of the upcoming changes.

Residents concerned about Social Security office closure

STAFF WRITER

BARSTOW - The planned closure of the Barstow Social Security Office was a hot topic on Tuesday as the City Council planned to vote on a resolution to oppose the closure.

The Barstow office will be closed and consolidated with the Victorville office effective March 29, according to a letter the city manager received from the San Francisco Regional Social Security Office on Jan. 17. Patricia Raymond, regional communications director for the Social Security Administration, wrote the letter.

"Effective March 29, 2014, the Victorville office will provide Social Security services to Barstow and Victorville residents," Raymond wrote. "We are sensitive to the effect this change may have on public service. As stewards of the public trust we must continually evaluate the most efficient and effective ways to provide service to the public."

Raymond cites administrative budget cuts over the past three years as the reason "we have had to consolidate dozens of field offices, stop visiting more than 1,500 remote service sites nationwide, and reduce public hours in our field offices."

The letter also said staff has been reduced by about 56 percent at the
Barstow office since October 2010 and that "it has become increasingly
difficult to provide a high level of service to the residents of Barstow
with such a small staff."

The City Council was set to vote Tuesday night on Resolution 1516, in which
the city opposes the closure of the Barstow office. The resolution cites
various reasons for the opposition, including that "the decision to close
the Barstow Social Security office was made without input from local
government agencies and the public."

The council was expected to approve the resolution, which would then be
forwarded to President Barack Obama, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara
Boxer, Rep. Paul Cook and the Social Security Administration.

The discussion and voting on the resolution was on the agenda, but the item was not discussed or voted on during Tuesday's public session for reasons unknown as of Tuesday night. The Desert Dispatch learned Wednesday that the resolution was approved unanimously.


"The city of Barstow is extremely concerned about the operational and
service cuts to the Social Security Administration and the negative effects
the consolidation of the Victorville and Barstow Social Security offices and
the closure of the Barstow facility will have on the Barstow community," the
city said in a news release.

Local residents expressed their concerns about the closure in the comments
section of an article that appeared on the Desert Dispatch's website and
Facebook page Monday afternoon.

"This is insane. ... Neither should be closed. ... Most people requiring
Social Security services are elderly or disabled and many rely on public
transportation to/from the offices. This would create a financial burden on
those least able to afford it. The City of Barstow must oppose this
proposal," Facebook user Susanne Caron McAllister said.

Michelle Abeyta Carter said on Facebook, "Everything leaves Barstow. ... How
are we supposed to support locally when everything leaves?"

Donnalyn Sprague shared the same sentiment, and 100 percent of the online
comments opposed the office closure.

"Victorville is not within walking distance," Sprague said. "Many of their
clients don't have vehicles (nor) can even drive. There must be some other
way to take care of the vital services and reporting that this office
handles."

Check back with the Desert Dispatch's print and online editions for ongoing
updates to this story.

Geoff Fisk can be reached by calling 760-256-4123 or at
Gfisk@DesertDispatch.com.


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