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Knox County Health Department has some very exciting news, sometime in 2020 it is our goal to move into the previous DFS building that sets directly south of us. About a year and a half ago we reached out to Woestman Property group of southern Missouri, and we began talking about the potential of acquiring the adjoining property. Unfortunately, 2018 was not a banner budget year for the health department and it was something we had to walk away from. How did we go from there to a year and a half later being the new owners of 102 W. Monticello and putting 207 N First St. up for sale?! It’s a long story, but one I’ve been anxious to share with the community.
I’m sure you have all heard the rumors about town that the property was being offered for $350,000+ dollars—that has never been a figure we discussed. In fact, we were fortunate to come to an agreement that left us paying less than a fifth of that price. We were fortunate to find a group that understood the not for profit plight of the local health department, what it means to have state contracts that come and go and in the end our arrangement was probably more of a tax right off than anything else to the property group.
We talked throughout the months of August and September. Had local contractors walk through the property, look at the bones and assure us that we were getting something we could work with, something that would hold the potential to be more than what we have now. And we are very aware of what we have now, 23 years ago a board, administrator and staff before us took us from the small trailer at the current site of the Knox County Ambulance District, to the 3300 sq. foot space of today. And since 2008 we have added a generator, all LED lighting, fixed all west side drainage, repainted and placed all new flooring. What we have is nice! But what we have has also reached its capacity of staff, storage, clinic space, and parking and the question was “could we use more?”. The new facility would offer 1100 more sq. feet of handicap accessible clinic rooms, hallways, inside storage space and a much larger classroom. And a very nice feature—a larger, more intact parking lot.
Another question, was our current space marketable, would someone want it, was it reasonable to believe it would sell in a year’s time. We met with realtors and experts in the field and the answer we received was “absolutely, it’s a space that is ready to go, and the time to sell is right.” And who knows, they might just be right, we have already had lookers.
Looking at all these testimonies, spending hours looking at the possibilities, in October 2019 it was time for me to give my recommendation to the board. The words of someone I had discussed the project with kept ringing in my ear “1100 more sq. feet, a larger lot, larger parking lot and the potential to buy and rehab it for the amount the other facility would sell for—it’s a no brainer!” With this option we recover our investments by selling our current facility and with a new lighting grant and rebates toward the hvac and heat we may very well come out ahead!
The board who’d also looked at the facility in 2018 and who’d also spent hours mulling the situation over, had come to the point where they had to decide. Pass on the opportunity and know that it would go on to find someone else because by now multiple people knew about our inspections; or vote yes on the future of public health in Knox County. Vote yes for all those things the new property could bring to the agency, staff and most importantly the community. And vote yes is what they did. We signed the contract in November 2019 and the third week of December completed the closing.
We are all so aware of what we do and who we do it for. This is a county agency, with a responsibility to the people. And one thing I’ve learned in the last few weeks is that after 20 years of working in Knox County and 13 as an administrator, I think I’ve built the relationship with the public that I’ve worked for—I’ve wanted that open door and that transparency that makes me feel like we are working together every day. Since the for-sale signs have gone up I have had visits and calls nearly every day with questions. I’m glad each one of you took the time to ask. I am sorry that it has scared some of you, and that is why I’ve been working with Echo from the beginning to get the story out. We are not in financial distress and selling to cover our expenses, and for those of you that called me after hearing that, thank you for your sincere concern for the office. And for those that felt uneasy, knowing that we just passed the tax levy and feared it was jumping too far too soon—thank you for listening to my story and to the rationale behind the purchase. This is something that would not wait, we had to act or lose this wonderful opportunity. We will receive those voted on tax funds in January 2020, and our proposal for moving forward with the purchase and rehab is to leave those funds right where we told you they would go—client service, maintaining programming, taking care of those that take care of the agency. And or those that called to share in the joy and thankfulness we feel—thank you so much.
My board chair said it best, “This decision wasn’t a whim, it was given significant consideration by the board of directors. It is an investment we can make in the future of Knox County Public Health. We understand the work that was put forth 20 years ago to establish the current facility, and just like those before us we are making this move for the betterment of the agency and for increased and more efficient service to the public.”
I’m just as committed to public health and Knox County as the day I was hired to serve you as part of a multi county job in 1999; in fact, more so today than ever. Knox County is my home, the community we serve is made up of my friends, family and neighbors. I’m charged with leaving the public health system in as good or better shape than when it was entrusted to me—and I take that job seriously.
When I tell you to call or come by and be a part of what is happening within public health in Knox County, I mean it, and when you have constructive criticism, I can take it. Always feel free to approach me and talk about any concern you might have—my promise to those I work with and for has always been to keep the door open! And regardless of where that door is located—it’s open to you.
We plan to keep you posted with all our progress on Facebook, like our page and stay up to date. Thank you again for your time and attention—and most importantly have a healthy and happy new year!
Respectfully, Your County Health Officer,
Knox County Health Department