BANGOR, Maine — The Social Security Administration’s office opened Monday on the first floor of the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building in the space the post office occupied for more than 40 years.
The office was closed Friday while staff relocated from the second-floor space the agency had occupied since the Harlow Street building opened in 1968.
“Our new location features a larger, more comfortable reception area to better accommodate our growing clientele and provide better service to the public,” Stephen Richardson, deputy regional communications director for the Social Security Administration in Boston, said Monday in an email. “This year, we have had more than 5,000 visitors and handled 10,504 phone calls, an average of 175 a day in the Bangor office.”
Information about how much larger the new space is compared with the old was not available Tuesday.
In addition to Bangor, the Social Security Administration has field offices in Auburn, Augusta, Portland, Presque Isle, Rockland, Saco and Waterville. Some residents of southern York County may use the Portsmouth, N.H., field office, according to information provided by Richardson.
As of December 2011, the most recent statistic available, 306,600 Maine residents received Social Security benefits, according to information posted on the agency’s website. Of that total, 190,944 were retired, 57,511 were disabled and the rest were either the spouses or children of beneficiaries.
The move means the $53 million in renovations, including the cost of design services, to the Queen City’s federal building is 87 percent complete, according to Patrick J. Sclafani, public affairs officer for the U.S. General Services Administration in Boston. The project, which began September 2010, is scheduled to be completed in mid-September, about three months ahead of schedule, Sclafani said in an email.
The construction phase of the project, which cost $33.88 million, has employed 420 people, he said. An average of 55 workers per day will be working on the site until it is finished.
The new entrance in the center of the building is expected to open mid- to late May, according to Sclafani. It will replace entrances at either end of the building. Renovations to the third floor, where the U.S. District Court and U.S. Bankruptcy Court are housed, are scheduled to be finished in June.
Efficiency upgrades are projected to reduce water consumption by 40 percent and energy use by 30 percent, according to a previously published report. In addition to a geothermal heating and cooling system, advanced heating, cooling and lighting controls are being installed. The old underground oil tanks were removed last summer, and natural gas lines were connected to the building.
The building also is being made compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act through renovations to public restrooms, the front plaza slope and the proper placement of elevator controls and door hardware, according to a previously published report.
Most of the work in the building has taken place between 5:30 p.m. and 3:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, according to Sclafani. The biggest challenge, he has said, has been working in an occupied building.
The Bangor post office moved in 2010 to Hammond Street in the Penobscot County-owned building that once housed Bangor District Court. The court was combined with Penobscot County Superior Court in the Penobscot Judicial Center, on Exchange Street, which opened in November 2009.
Offices for other federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service and Housing and Urban Development, will move into SSA’s old offices, according to a previously published report.