BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Details of a lease agreement between the Lee County Health Department and Iowa Dept. of Corrections were released this morning as the the department’s Board of Directors unanimously approved moving the health department’s location to the ISPs Administration Building.
According to the lease, LCHD will pay the DOC $7,000/month for all four stories of the building.
According to a financial document released at Wednesday morning’s meeting of the board, rent for the three-year lease will be $84,000 per year, which is $30,000 more than the next year’s rent at the health department’s current location at 2218 Avenue H. That location is a leased space from AgeMark Corporation who owns the Kensington senior assisted living center.
The department moved at the direction of then-Lee County Attorney Ross Braden on a concern for the air quality. No move has been made however on the part of Kensington residents. The county then ordered an air quality inspection of the LCHD’s portion of the building, which was conducted in March. The Pen City Current is awaiting release of that report under a Freedom of Information Act request last week.
The lease with the DOC does include all utilities, water, snow removal, and building repairs which will save the health department $17,000 per year for a net increase of $13,000 per year for the first year. The lease with the DOC is set for three years, whereas the Kensington rent increases each year: $4,800 for the second year and an additional $1,200 the third year. The increased cost in the second year is whittled to $8,000 and the third year to $6,600.
LCHD finance/operations director Tammy Wilson said the department has enough money in the budget to absorb the additional cost when cost-saving measures are put into place.
LCHD has a six-month notification process with AgeMark and is on the hook for six months of rent through November. At $4,500 per month, the health department would owe AgeMark $27,000. Assistant Lee County Attorney Ross Braden said he has inquired to see if the organization would settle the amount for a lump sum.
‘I’ve sent a letter two days ago to Rachel Benda at the Kensington to see if they would be interested in a lump sum payment of maybe a couple months to sever the lease,” Braden told the board Wednesday.
“I’d like to see that, but I really don’t see what incentive there would be.”
The health department had several furnaces installed in the facility, two in 1990 and one in 2015. The lease agreement allows the department to remove the furnaces but the board said they really didn’t have any use for the furnaces.
Other costs included with the move would be moving expenses, which have been estimated at $7,500 and could take anywhere from two to five days. There would also be $5,000 in IT costs to Drake Hardware and Software associated with moving and reconnecting the department’s computer equipment, as well as $18,000 for installation of the phone system. Wilson said the phone system has been budgeted and part of the IT expense in the budget. However, the moving expenses aren’t in the budget.
LCHD Director Julie Schilling said there is about $100,000 total in two separate Friends of Lee County Health Department accounts that can be used to help with the added expenses of the move.
Repairs to the facility would be the expense of the DOC according to the lease. However, there is specific language regarding the roof that says if the DOC doesn’t have sufficient funds to do roof repairs should the need arise, the cost would have to be absorbed by the health department. The health department could exercise a termination at that point if they didn’t want to pay for that type of repair.
The lease will go into effect Thursday and Schilling said the moving process would start next week, but the IT and phone people would have access to the facility on Thursday.
“We need to have the phone system and communications up and running before we start moving in,” Schilling said.