Funding questions and concerns lingered with county supervisors following Monday’s public hearing on a potential Community Development Block Grant application which would help fund a new health department facility.
If approved by the state, the grant would only fund $600,000 for a $1.66 million, 8,500-square-foot building. The final cost is still unknown at this time because plans do not factor in parking construction or a potential land purchase. Supervisors say these expenditures could push the project to the $2 million mark.
Even if the grant is approved, matching county funding would need to be in place by July. District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer said the search to obtain additional funding is the $1 million question — literally.
Board President Marvell Howard said supervisors are likely to take no action on the grant application at their next meeting due to the lack of a final cost estimate, the constrained county budget and the rapidly approaching May CDBG deadline.
“I think the county has decided to table it until next year’s (CDBG application deadline). We will continue to work on it until then, but we feel just don’t feel like proper justice can be given to the project right now,” Howard said. “With any county, its citizens’ health and welfare is the No. 1 issue with the board. The board of supervisors doesn’t take the issue lightly, either. Given our budget constraints and given there is still information that has to be gathered, I don’t feel this project is feasible at this time.”
During Monday’s public hearing, supervisors discussed circumventing the cost of construction by renovating the current facility. Patsy Patterson, a grant writer with the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District, said such renovations could be covered by a CDBG. Trainer said a 4,500-square-foot addition to the facility could come to fruition in the future, but Howard, who was not present at the meeting, said he didn’t think the extra space is spatially feasible at the site. Additionally, Howard said the county could move overflow offices to the existing site in the future if a new facility is constructed.
Both supervisors said any new facility should be constructed in Starkville because the location provides a central point for health care in the county.
“You’re looking at pretty tough times economically right now. Not to say there’s not a need for a new facility, but I think that’s why we need to entertain doing work on the existing structure. Having said that, I’d still like to look at a cost analysis as far as renovations are concerned before we do anything,” District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery said. “This project started off with a $1.2 million price tag; now it’s almost $1.7 million plus the cost of land and parking, and looking like it will easily come in over $2 million with a $600,000 maximum grant. Where’s that money going to come from? Before I commit to anything, I want to see harder numbers. I want more answers to the questions we’ve been given.”
The county last applied for a $450,000 CDBG in November 2002 to pave 3.15 miles of New Light Road, GTPDD grant writer Phylis Benson said. The most recent CDBG-funded projects include Blackjack water improvements and the county education building.