Plans for new health department closer, but location in question

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Plans for a new building to house the county health department are moving forward, but the question of where that building might be located is again uncertain.

With final plans for the structure finally in hand, the county building committee took the next step in trying to fit construction of the building into the budgeted funds.

It has taken the county months, if not years, to get final plans for the building in hand after a long process of back and forth regarding the design.

At the committee’s February meeting, they voted unanimously to move on from James Kennon, the architect that the county has used so far on the project.

Frustrations with the pace of the project and with communication between the county and Kennon have been expressed by several of those involved in the planning.

The committee had voted in February to have local contractor John Chunn cost out the plans as presented so that the committee would have an idea of what this version would cost.

Construction costs over the last two years have increased by up to 30 percent in the region, due to regional demand and increases the cost in building materials.

Chunn’s estimate came back at approximately $2,038,000.

The county’s expectations for construction costs has generally hovered around $1.5 million, an amount approved by the county commission in May, 2017.

The committee approved another architectural firm to undertake the process of “value engineering,” going line by line through the plans and specifications and making substitutions in materials or adjustments to the plans in order to save costs.

Alongside that process, some commissioners have raised the question of moving the building away from its current Legion Avenue location.

None of the commissioners currently on the building committee were part of the committee when it was decided in September of 2017 to build the new facility next to the current one.

Some commissioners have already approached Lewisburg Printing, located next to the current health department, to gauge their interest in the property.

A new location on War Eagle Drive, closer to the hospital and other medical facilities has been put forward as a possible new location for the department.

Angie Faulkner, director of the Health Department, said that she was open to moving to a new location, if the commission chose to do so.

In 2017, the committee looked at the idea of moving the facility, which some say is difficult to find, before deciding to remain on the current parcel.

A $100,000 grant from the state for interior fittings in the new building is set to expire in September.

Discussions over a new building for the health department began in earnest in 2015.

The 6,600 square foot building, constructed in 1965 with an addition in 1996, is no longer large enough to support the department, which has seen double digit percentage increases in the number of annual visits for several years.

Additionally, in April, 2015, Faulkner told the committee of electrical issues, water damage, heating and cooling problems, and damage to the building’s addition, caused by a settling foundation, undercut by poor drainage on the site.