BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Lee County Health Department opened its doors for visitors to see the group’s new offices at the former John Bennett Administration building in Fort Madison.
The department has been working out of the offices since August, but was putting the finishing touches on the office spaces before having the public in for a viewing.
LCHD Director Julie Schilling said the new space is even better than she had anticipated.
“I think we’re more happy now than we were when we first started looking at it,” she said Thursday evening as crowds of people from southeast Iowa milled about in the reception area. Groups were taken up in small and large groups to view all four floors of the office space.
“One of the things the staff likes most is the increased amount of space. We were at The Kensington for quite a while and they were very good to work with, but space was one of the things the board of directors had identified as a need a while back and we think this works very well for us,” Schilling said.
LCHD moved in April under an air quality concern at the department’s former location at 2218 Avenue H. The department had been housed at the North Lee County Office building since the end of April, before signing a three-year lease with the Iowa Department of Corrections.
The Health Department inked the deal with the IDOC in June to lease the 4-story former John Bennett Administration building at $7,000/month. Their lease with The Kensington’s ownership group was $5,400/month, but didn’t include utilities or maintenance, which the DOC agreement does.
IT crews had to rewire some of the building’s digital cabling and phone systems and that took some time and delayed the department moving into the new location. However, the group has been serving area residents at the new facility since the end of August, Schilling said.
“We didn’t need to paint or anything,” Schilling said, “It was move-in ready. We came over several times to see what sections each staff should have.”
The new office opens into a reception area in what used to be the ISP’s John Bennett Critical Care Unit entrance. To the right after you walk in the door is a reception area where people needing services can be directed to the right staff.
On the first level past the reception area is administrative staff and storage with an office for one environmental staff. The second floor is more office space and a child vaccination clinic. The third and fourth floors have offices for HOPES (Healthy Opportunities for Parents to Experience Success) which includes staffing and family counseling services, a large breakroom, and a large conference room as well as additional staffing offices and WIC services.
The new facility is approximately 11,000 square feet, which is 6,700 feet over what the department had at The Kensington. “The concept for a new building was set at 12,000 square feet but included a basement storage area. In the new location, each floor has allocated storage on each floor for the respective services.