Letter to the Editor – LCHD boardmember outlines need for new building

Opinion

Dear Editor:

As a member of the Lee County Board of Health, I am writing about the need for a new Lee County Health Department building and location. For 20+ years the health department has demonstrated a need to move from its current location to a more practical and accessible building for the public and its employees.

The current LCHD location at 2218 Ave H is a rented property. Although the owner of the property has been a great landlord and community partner to LCHD, the need for a county-owned building for LCHD is realistic and greatly needed. This is due to two primary reasons:

1. The projected costs of renting and completing building repairs and maintenance for an old building in the long term outweighs the costs of a new county-owned building on county owned property. The heating and cooling system needs updated, the electrical system is outdated and at its maximum capacity, and the elevator has been dismantled and is beyond repair. For those interested, LCHD’s finance administrator has available financial data to support the comparable cost projections of remaining at the current location vs. a new building over the next 20-25-year period.

2. The second reason is the size and available space of the current location. This space is no longer compatible with the number of services/programs LCHD offers and the number of employees it houses. In 1989 when LCHD moved into the current location, there were just 6 programs with 22 employees. Today there are 19 programs with 36 employees, 4 contracted staff, and office volunteers, all working in just 7,500 square feet. Some staff/volunteers are working in hallways and many program materials/supplies are stacked in boxes and/or stored in any space available. Available storage space is completely full at ground level and the overflow storage room on the 4th floor of the rented building requires four flights of steps to store and retrieve needed supplies by program staff.

As stated before, LCHD has been looking for a new location for several years. Over 20 sites have been looked at for possibilities by the building committee. Most of the buildings looked at were in similar size or condition which would cost as much as a new building between purchasing property, making needed renovations, and land acquisition.

The building committee and Board of Health have determined that the best scenario involves building a new health department on county owned property next to the Sheriff’s Office. This would be centrally located and handicapped accessible. On behalf of the Board of Health, I am hoping the public understands the need for this new building and votes YES on May 2, 2017. If you would like to tour the current location or request additional information about the new building plans, please call the administrator at LCHD.

Paula Spiekermeier

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