BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MONTROSE – If approved it’s likely the new Lee County Health Department will be located on property adjacent to the Lee County Juvenile Detention Center in Montrose.
At Tuesday’s Lee County Board of Supervisors’ meeting, supervisors approved 5-0, a resolution to put the building on the site, which is already owned by the county. However Chairman Ron Fedler advised the board the site could be amended if circumstances change. Another site that is being considered as an alternative is land behind Comfort Inn and Suites on the west end of Fort Madison. That land would have to be purchased by the county. Supervisor Matt Pflug said estimates for that land are as high as $55,000.
The county health department, through action of the board, will be asking voters to construct a $2.4 million to $2.5 million facility at approximately 12,000 square feet. The referendum is tentatively set for May 2, at a cost of about $20,00o to the county.
Julie Schilling, LCHD administrator, said she’s aware of the history of referendums in Lee County with several this year being voted down by the voters including a new centrally located single Lee County courthouse and a new Fort Madison PreK-3rd grade elementary school.
She said the last referendum to be approved by voters was for the construction of the new jail, but she’s aware that the last two efforts for referendums failed by relatively large margins.
“I think it is possible. The jail referendum passed. But it may take more than one election,” Schilling said.
“I think the information needs to be presented and understood by the taxpayers in terms of the needs and costs. I think it makes sense for us to be fiscally responsible. And we are going to be presenting a proposal for the cost of the building to be offset by what we’ve already spent and what we’re projecting to spend.”
Schilling also presented the board with the 25-year breakdown of approximately $2.7 million the health department will incur in the next 25 years including $1.5 million in rent, $350,000 in repairs. and other services and maintenance that she said can be substantially reduced with the new construction. The projected expenses also have a $55,000 line item for remodeling at The Kensington, the current location of the health department, to accommodate current and future needs.
Supervisor Gary Folluo said that he still has concerns about the increased traffic into the area considering the length of the turning lane and the turn being located just north of the viaduct.
“This is a serious issue here. We’re talking about putting another 20 to 30 people in at certain times… it’s a serious issue,” Fulluo said.
“I think it does deserve some study because I’ve been caught out here before and I know the area and when people are coming here for help, it’s not a good scenario out here on this viaduct. I don’t know what the plans are… if the state were to consider something different to the extend the turning lane or not… but you don’t have a whole lot of room for turning and you’re coming right over a viaduct.”
The new facility would have approximately 9,000 feet on the main floor and about 3,000 additional square feet of storage, equipment and HVAC in the basement and would accommodate 74 parking spaces.
Pflug said the move shows a commitment to taxpayers that the board is being as financially responsible as it can be.
“I think from a taxpayers view this should show good merit that we are using property we already own,” he said.