Committee changes course on Health Department building

Friday, September 8, 2017

The old Marshall County Health Department building might have received a reprieve from demolition on Wednesday night.

The county’s building committee held a work session at the building to tour the facility and reconsider future plans for the structure.

Replacement or renovation of the building has been under discussion for at least two years.

That process has been marked with “confusion” and “miscommunication” according to the discussion at the work session.

Plans and drawings have been proposed off and on for months without clear answers.

The County Commission approved funds for the construction of a new building for the Health Department at their May 22 meeting.

Their seemed to be a decision made that a new building would be built next to the existing building, which would then be torn down and the space used for parking.

On Wednesday, the committee started back almost at square one.

“The Building Committee does not recollect ever approving this building,” said committee chair Mike Waggoner. “We are trying to mop up whatever has happened.”

“Do we need to keep this building?” asked Waggoner.

Twelve of the 18 county commissioners attended the work session and, after discussion, it seemed the answer from the commissioners was yes.

“It seems like the general consensus may be that we keep this building, fix it up, and add a building next to it,” said Waggoner, summing up the discussion.

“That way we have a better building than a lot of our older buildings,” he said.

County Health Director Angie Faulkner said that her department had outgrown the 6,200 square foot building and that the deteriorating condition of the building was an issue as well.

She said that this department was one of the two fastest growing in the region.

She said that visits to the Health Department had increased 16 percent last year and 16 percent the year before that as well.

The department’s proposal is for a new 8,400 square foot building.

Some of the frustrations were directed toward the architect handling the project, James Kennon.

“I feel like I’ve given him this plan months ago, and we met last Wednesday and he acted like he’d never seen it,” said Faulkner.

The building was constructed in 1965 with an addition made in 1996.

The building does have issues that would need to be addressed.

One wing of the building is settling, requiring repair work to the foundation estimated to cost approximately $30,000.

The electrical system needs updating and one of the air conditioning units is currently not working and needs replacement, to the tune of roughly $13,000.

Repairs to the building and conversion of the building into office space would cost far less than building new office space

Space for county offices in the Courthouse Annex and in the Hardison Annex is beginning to become an issue and commissioners seemed loathe to tear down a county building when they might need the space for other departments.

Since this was a work session, no vote on any of the issues raised could be held.

The committee will hold a regular meeting on Sept. 14 at 6 p.m. to further consider the county’s plan.