The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners met on Monday, November 15th for the regularly scheduled monthly meeting. The evening started with the passing of various resolutions including appointing Lamar Green as a member of the Board of Directors of the Cumberland County E-911 Emergency Communications District, approving a loan for the Board of Education’s Energy Efficiency Schools Initiative, and two budget amendments for the Board of Education. Claysville Lane was inadvertently left off the official county road list, and the Commission voted to add it back.
The next item on the night’s agenda, the building of a new health department, would prove to be the last. As you may know from reading earlier editions of CC Notes, CumberlandCounty has been awarded a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant funding 87 percent of a new Health Department up to $4,495,730. The original site in the grant is the location next to the library on Webb Avenue and 5th Street, the old handle mill site. Kim Chamberlin of Upland Design Group was on hand to present additional options for the sites. Six acres are available on the bypass near Peavine Road for $580,000 with up to an additional $90,000 needed to make the site ready for a pad. The original site downtown on the handle mill property is 2.1 acres for $457,000 plus an approximate $120,000 to make the site ready for construction. A third site was introduced on 127 across from the Dollar General Store and next to Physician’s Associates. This location is just less than 5 acres for $487,500 and approximately $135,000 more to prepare the site. The overall price for each site is similar, although the price per acre varies significantly.
As I mentioned, the original grant was for the old handle mill site across from the new library. I’m not sure how we got to the point of evaluating other sites for the Health Department but it turned into two hours worth of discussion and motions. At one point in the discussion, a letter from HRSA was handed out to the Commissioners. The letter stated, in part, that CumberlandCounty is: “considering changing the proposed site location for their Capital Development (CD) grant project. Because of the competitive nature of the FIP grants, HRSA is strongly encouraging the grantees not to make changes to their approved CD project.” With this in mind, a motion to accept the original site was made by Harry Sabine and seconded by Joe Koester. On a roll call vote, the motion failed 8-10. Voting in favor were Brian Houston, Harry Sabine, Nancy Hyder, Robert Safdie, Allen Foster, Joe Koester, Jan McNeil, and Jeff Brown. Voting against were David Hassler, Johnny Presley, Charles Seiber, Larry Allen, Terry Carter, Mike Harvel, Roy Turner, Sonya Rimmer, Clyde Cramer, and Carmin Lynch. Much more discussion ensued. At one point a motion to reconsider the original motion was made by Clyde Cramer. That motion failed 9-10 with Brian Houston, Harry Sabine, Nancy Hyder, Robert Safdie, Allen Foster, Joe Koester, Jan McNeil, Jeff Brown, and Clyde Cramer voting in favor. David Hassler, Johnny Presley, Charles Seiber, Larry Allen, Terry Carter, Mike Harvel, Roy Turner, Sonya Rimmer, and Carmin Lynch voted against creating a tie vote. Mayor Carey voted No and the motion failed.
It was brought up during the next round of discussion that the Mayor may not be negotiating with the actual owner of the property on the bypass, but rather with someone with an option to purchase. Mike Harvel made a motion, seconded by Johnny Presley, to offer the owner of the property on the bypass $60,000 per acre. If that was rejected, we were to offer the asking price to the person with the option to buy. If that failed, we were to fall back and build on the original site. After the motion was discussed and fine tuned, I point out that, in my opinion, this motion was creating a situation where in essence the County was negotiating with itself, and the inevitable conclusion would be that we would pay full price for the land. The vote failed 11-7, with Houston, Sabine, Hyder, Safdie, Foster, Koester, McNeil, Carter, Brown, Rimmer, and Cramer voting against. Voting for the motion was Hassler, Presley, Seiber, Allen, Harvel, Turner, and Lynch.
After more discussion, and over two hours into the discussion, Terry Carter made a motion, seconded by Roy Turner, to recess the meeting until Monday, November 22 at 5:00 PM. I voted against the motion along with Houston, Safdie, Allen, Harvel, Brown, and Rimmer but the vote passed 10-8.
Anyone that has been to our Health Department knows that this new building is sorely needed. It is not often that an 87 percent grant comes along. I believe the best course overall is to follow the advice from HRSA and stick with the original site, however there are other good sites that could be used for this building. I believe the key is to approve either the original site, or to approve an alternate site with the original site as a fallback in case HRSA rejects the alternate. This is an important issue that should not be political in nature. An 87 percent grant is a good thing for CumberlandCounty and we need to make sure to move forward and not jeopardize it. I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts on this matter. Please contact me and let me know what you think.
Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter. More information is available on my website at http://allenfoster.net. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, feel free to contact me.