MSU Extension to expand, improve community outreach

WHITEHALL – The Montana State University Extension Office in Whitehall is looking to improve upon the services they provide to residents of Madison and Jefferson County by increasing their support staff and upgrading their office facility.

The change in support staff will bring the part time office position up to full time, adding more manpower for clerical and secretarial work in the Whitehall office in terms of economic and community development for the MSU Extension programs as well as the Jefferson Local Development Corporation. Duties for the position include using accounting software like Quickbooks, working with budgets and submitting invoices to both Jefferson and Madison County.

In the past the extension office had two full time support staff, but in recent years the positions were reduced to one full time and one part time. Extension agent Andrea Sarchet says that bringing back the full time position will help the extension program dramatically.

“Any time you have just one and a half staff in the office, its kind of hard to keep our office hours right on task,” Sarchet said. “Just by having that added support staff, it will increase our availability because right now for the last year we’ve been struggling to stay open from 8 to 5.”

The increase in hours for the position also gives the rest of the office an opportunity to expand their range of services.

“Having two full time support staff will allow our office to take on some new projects, new activities, just increase the overall capacity of the office,” she said.

The other change in support staff is a revision to the 4H/Ag support position. While the position still remains full time, Sarchet says that the change in job description will improve their office’s outreach to the community.

“The change in both positions is going to benefit us hugely,” Sarchet said. “Rather than focusing on an administrative support staff, I’m asking that that person now take on some higher level, educational responsibilities like working with volunteers, doing training both on the agriculture side as well as the 4H side.”

The Extension Office also recently announced plans to relocate their offices from the current location at 309 East Legion Avenue a couple blocks down the street to the Borden’s building, located on the 100 block at the corner of West Legion and Main Street in Whitehall.

The move allows for expanded office space to accommodate additional employees such as interns and seasonal workers, as well as a larger reception area that will function for multiple county offices. The building is owned by the JLDC and offers a more functional, easily accessible conference room for classes and public meetings.

In addition to the MSU extension offices the building will also offer retail space on the main floor and a number of apartments for rent on the second floor. The move from the current location is tentatively scheduled for fall or winter of 2013.

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