A number of public-assistance clients and low-income advocates braved Friday's hailstorm to wave signs in protest of the Department of Social Service's imminent merger of two offices into one location at the ExpoMart.

The department has signed a lease at ExpoMart that will combine the 2N district office, 554 S. Third East, and 2B, 2835 S. Main, into a new 2X district office. The two offices now serve about 6,100 clients.Opponents of the move say that parking is inadequate, travel time will be a service barrier for some clients and a food pantry near the old 2B office will be negatively affected, among other things. They have also expressed frustration because the department signed a lease without listening to their complaints, although they had formally requested a hearing on the subject.

The department said the new location will provide better access to many clients, especially because the bus service is better in the downtown area. Norman Angus, department executive director, said the facility is much more adequate to meet the needs of the department and the clients, including ample room for the new computer system.

Between 30 and 35 people marched on the sidewalk in front of the Post Office entrance, carrying signs with slogans like: "2B or not 2B," "Say No to Welfare Mart" and "American Savings is getting rich from the poor." The protest was organized by a group called Clients Against Relocation, and most of the marchers were clients of the two offices, although two of the clients were from the Kearns office.

"They were concerned about this move setting a precedent for how this situation will be handled in the future," Glenn Bailey, Crossroads Urban Center, said. The state is developing a master plan regarding placement of offices in the future, and that is a cause for concern, too, he said.

The peaceful demonstration broke up when police asked the protesters to get a parade permit or leave.