Mon. Sep 25th, 2023

County moves forward on new Health Department plans in West End Plaza

Published 12:08 am Wednesday, August 9, 2023

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Board of Commissioners got an update to the construction of a new Department of Health building in West End Plaza during their meeting Monday afternoon that included the latest update to the price tag from ADW Architects, which has been handling the planning phase for the project.

The main reason for the potential move is to give the Health Department more room for growth. If the project is completed, the new space in West End Plaza would host 22 exam rooms, up from the 14 in the current East Innes Street building. With the upcoming Medicaid expansion, the extra space will be needed to accommodate the additional eligible patients.

The new space would also allow for adequate separation between infectious patients and those there for non-sickness reasons, such as pre-natal care or immunization.

“What’s happening with Medicaid transformation is we have a lot of providers who are now ending their contracts with Medicaid because of how difficult actually working with the prepaid health plans is. So we are anticipating new patients from that over time, but also the expansion was 13,000 new patients potentially,” said Health Director Alyssa Harris.

Harris also noted that the new project accounted for future growth so that the Health Department did not have to come back to the commissioners and ask for more room in the future.

The price of the project would be $24,263,963 if the commissioners chose to include all of the options the architects laid out for them. Those options included four different alternates that extended the renovations to the exterior of West End Plaza as well as the parking lot. If the commissioners simply went with the base project, which is just the renovation for the Health Department, then the price tag would drop to $19,200,724.

The price initially caused some sticker shock among the commissioners. Commissioner Craig Pierce said that he would be fine with putting Health Department dollars back into their project, but that the board needed to slow down spending money right now. His statement came in the middle of a discussion about how best to finance the project.

County Manager Aaron Church brought up that the county may be able to avoid using many local dollars to fund the project. The county already has $4 million in Medicaid reimbursements waiting in escrow accruing interest. Church said the fund has to be spent to help the source that it came in from. For example, if the reimbursement came from the Health Department’s maternal health program it would have to go directly back into the maternal health program. This renovation project provided a way to take all of those dollars that Church says are difficult to find ways to spend and put them into the new construction.

Church also noted that the county has $11 million in unspent funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. That ARPA money has to be committed to a project by the end of 2024 or it will be lost.

Put those two funds together and the county already has $15 million out of the around $24 million that the full project would cost. Commissioner Mike Caskey brought up the potential for Medicaid reimbursements to continue paying that final $9 million left over. The county estimates that with the previously reported Medicaid expansion that the annual reimbursement will jump to between $900,000 and $1 million. The county could finance the remaining money on the project and use that annual income to pay off the loan, said Caskey.

Commissioner Greg Edds also noted that the county can bail from the project at anytime. He also noted the potential for the county to receive bids on all four of the alternate proposals and, after seeing the bid prices, choose not to go forward with some of them.

The commissioners voted unanimously to approve moving to the next stages of the project, which is opening up the bidding process for designing the Health Department’s space in the West End Plaza.

In other news from the meeting, the commissioners approved a lease agreement for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to rent office space in the Agricultural Center in West End Plaza. This will provide $245,000 in new revenue for the county.

The county also approved rezoning applications from Fisher Athletic and Performance Pit Oakridge. Fisher’s rezoning will allow them to build on 1.8 recently acquired acres behind their current building on Cauble Road. Performance Pit’s rezoning will allow them to construct a building in the Performance Park to build and store race cars as well as perform shop work. Performance Park is located on Peach Orchard Road.

Two scheduled public hearings involving the Rowan EDC were postponed. The first was a hearing on a potential incentive offer to a manufacturing business codenamed Project Puma. The second was concerning an offer by Fortius Capital Partners to buy county-owned land in Summit Corporate Center in order to build an 80,000 square foot facility. Both hearings have been tentatively rescheduled for the next meeting on Aug. 21.

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