By CARL SMITH
A public hearing is scheduled 10 a.m. Monday at the county courthouse where supervisors will continue discussing a possible grant application to fund construction of a new county health department facility.
The Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors could apply for a Community Development Block Grant which would fund a portion of a proposed $1.66 million, 8,500-square-foot facility for public health workers.
The final cost of the project is unknown because original plans do not factor in the potential purchase of land or the construction of parking spaces.
District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams said the county is currently exploring land options already under government control, but no final decision has been announced.
If approved, the grant would provide up to $600,000 in matching funding, which leaves the county to foot the remainder of the bill. CDBGs provide a maximum of $600,000 for cities and counties with a population greater than 3,500 people.
In accordance with the Community Development Act of 1974, projects must benefit low- and moderate-income persons, aid in the prevention or elimination of slums or blights or meet urgent health and welfare needs existing due to the lack of financial resources. Infrastructure projects such as drainage, sewage and road construction are more likely approved by the state for funding than brick-and-mortar construction projects, county officials say.
In March, health department officials presented the board a letter outlining the need for a new facility. The department is experiencing growth-based issues which have contributed to a lack of patient privacy, increased fire hazards and inadequate space.
The board could approve the grant application Monday, but it is not required to make a decision on the matter. Supervisors could also opt to delay the application until next year’s CDBG application deadline. The county can only apply for one CDBG grant at a time, per state rules.
“I get the feeling the application wouldn’t be as easily acquired next year as this year,” Williams said. “There are still a lot of unanswered questions that we need resolved soon.”
If approved, the county would be on the hook for over $1 million in funding, and that money would need to be in place by the summer. Despite the cost difference, District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer said he is optimistic about the board’s view on public health needs. Additional funding, he said, could be obtained through loans or bonds.
“We made the motion to go forward on this (application). By making that initial step, that’s an indication we have support for this issue,” District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer said. “I know cost estimates now are about $1.7 million. The (amount the county would spend if approved) is a challenge, but we have to decide if this is a high priority. The project’s chances would greatly be helped if we had a dollar-for-dollar match. Historically, the county has never been eager to go out and build new facilities, but the need for public health (services) in this county is a need that will never go away.”
Trainer said plans could be readjusted toward a renovation project if the CDBG application is denied by the state.
“I’m open to a wide variety of ideas on this — new construction or retrofitting. We may need to look at how we’ve addressed similar needs with our present facilities,” Trainer said. “It’ll take three supervisors to (approve a grant application), and then we’ll let the powers-that-be say if we’re eligible.”
Patsy Patterson, a grant writer with the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District, will be in attendance Monday to answer any questions the board might have on the CDBG application’s logistics and to document the public hearing for the possible application.
Trainer said he hopes the public hearing is well attended and citizens speak their minds on the issue.