By Tim Leeds
The North Central Social Security Office in Havre will resume full-time service on Monday.
The office was cut to part- time hours when Donna Knudson, the representative for the office for 27 years, retired. Representatives from the Great Falls office have been operating the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Larry Massanari, acting commissioner of Social Security, sent a letter to U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., on Thursday stating that the North Central Office would resume full-time hours, and that the office will not be eliminated in the future.
Baucus had sent a letter to Massanari on Wednesday expressing concern about the future of the office after reading a story in the Havre Daily News. The story said the Social Security office in Great Falls was evaluating whether the Havre office should be staffed full time.
Baucus is the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees the Social Security Administration.
"The head of the Social Security Administration is basically saying that they're going to keep it open so we're very pleased," said Barrett Kaiser, spokesman for Baucus. "He (Baucus) wasn't about to let them close the Havre office, because he knows how important it is to folks on the Hi-Line. He's trying to step in and use his influence to help when he can."
Havre Mayor Phyllis Leonard got a phone call today from Baucus' office informing her the Social Security office would remain open.
"I think it's wonderful that he's able to keep the Social Security office in Havre because we really need that," Leonard said.
Kaiser said Mary Ellen Nelson from Baucus' Kalispell office, his chief Social Security advisor in Montana, toured several locations in the state earlier in the summer. She found the resources of the administration in Montana already spread too thin, Kaiser said, and Baucus thought closing the North Central Office would just make the problem worse.
Baucus also wrote to the Social Security Administration in 1995, when it considered consolidating the Havre office with the Great Falls office.