By CARL SMITH
The Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors and the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District are continuing to work toward a possible Community Development Block Grant application which would help fund a new county health department building despite not knowing a solid price on the potential project.
Documents presented to County Administrator Don Posey state the proposed 8,500-square-foot facility would cost $1.66 million, which includes construction itself, furnishings and other fees. Not included in that price is the potential purchase of land for the facility and the construction of parking spaces.
The need to move forward on the project is due to the upcoming May deadline for CDBG applications. If secured, a grant would cover up to $600,000 of the project, Golden Triangle Planning and Development District representative Patsy Patterson said. The county can only apply for one CDBG request at a time.
In March, health department officials presented supervisors a letter outlying 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 county has yet to officially apply for the grant and would need to hold a public hearing on the matter before it can go forward. A hearing was scheduled for 10 a.m. April 23 at the county courthouse, but 14 continuous days of public advertising need to be completed prior to the hearing.
“We’re at a point where we need to hold public hearings. The county could pursue other funding through rural development loans, but that’s not a guarantee because we haven’t met with those representatives yet,” Patterson said Wednesday.
During the board’s discussion Monday, supervisors questioned the unclear project costs and asked if renovations could be done to the existing structure. While the board continues working toward the ability to apply for the grant, Board President Marvell Howard said the county could always use this work for a future CDBG application.
District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery said he thinks it would be hard to find funding for construction in the county’s existing budget. The county has prepared previous fiscal year budgets with cuts and shortfalls in mind.
“I’m for having good county facilities and I want to see these services for our health and well-being be available, but I just don’t know how we’re going to be able to afford this,” Montgomery said. “I’d still love to see a hard number put down before I commit to anything.”
District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer said the need for public health care facilities is enough to get the board to take action.
“It’s a simple situation: If there’s something we need to do, we got to find a way to make it happen or find some options. Public health is not just a concern; it’s an obligation,” Trainer said. “The price is not so much a concern because we could stretch the cost over a number of years and use that to leverage what we want. We’ve tried renovations (to other buildings) before; sometimes they work, but sometimes they can become just as costly. We need to look at this issue from all aspects, have a meeting of the minds and come up with a compromise.”
In other business, County Road Manager Victor Collins informed the board a striping project is needed for South Montgomery Street. The 2.2-mile project affects a highly traveled portion of road, Collins said. South Montgomery Street exits Starkville city limits, crosses West and East Poor House Roads and terminates at the intersection of Bethel and Mt. Olive Roads.
The board also heard from a request for travel funding for Constable Curtis Randle to attend a conference. Randle said he wanted to alert the board to the need, and the board acknowledged it has shifted monies from other travel accounts to cover Randle’s previous trips. The board took Randle’s request under advisement.