By Tim Leeds
The North Central Social Security Office will be staffed by Great Falls representatives while the Social Security Administration looks for a permanent representative for the Havre office.
Delia Lasanta, director of the Social Security regional office in Denver, said the office on Monday began new hours of 9 a.m. to noon and 12:30 to 3 p.m. Great Falls representatives will come to the office on a rotating basis until the administration hires or transfers someone to the Havre office, she said.
Donna Knudson, who had been the representative in the office for 27 years, unexpectedly announced her retirement this summer. Lasanta said the administration has started the search for Knudson's replacement.
"It was never our intention to close (the office,)" she said. "We were very lucky for so many years to have Donna there. (Her retirement) left us a little short-handed."
Lasanta said the Social Security Administration provides many ways for people to communicate with it, including toll-free phone numbers and a Web site.
"But we understand how important it is to have that face-to-face contact and we are fully committed to maintaining that," she said. "We realize how hard it is for someone in Havre to travel so far."
Representatives at the Great Falls office said early in September that the administration was reviewing use of the Havre office to determine if it would be kept at full-time hours.
U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., announced last week that he sent a letter to the Social Security Administration opposing closing the office or changing it to part-time status. Larry Massanari, acting director of the administration, sent a letter back to Baucus telling him the office would be kept at full time. Baucus is chair of the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees the Social Security Administration.
The administration considered consolidating the operations of the Havre office into the Great Falls office in 1995. Baucus urged the administration to keep the Havre office open at that time.
Social Security general information and services: 1-800-772-1213
On the Net: Social Security Administration: www.ssa.gov/