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Health department seeks new home
Has outgrown small, aging facility
Health WEB 1
Nurse Alison Davis’ office, above, is a desk situated in the middle of an exam room at the Forsyth County Health Department. Officials have asked the county for more space. - photo by Autumn McBride

The Forsyth County commission agrees the local health department needs a new building to meet future needs.

In the meantime, however, it has directed county staff to seek short-term solutions to ease crowding and space issues at the Canton Highway facility.

The 5-0 decision Tuesday came in response to a letter from health department officials in May, when they asked for help to “develop a plan to provide new, adequate space.”

Built in 1986, the building was expanded in 1995 to its current size of about 11,000 square feet.

Since then, offices have become storage spaces and major repair issues have developed due to aging, according to the letter.

The letter also details several other issues with the existing structure, including patient privacy, ventilation and waiting room space.

Commissioners first reviewed the request at a June meeting, when they directed staff to conduct a space and needs analysis.

County public facilities director Dave Thornton, who presented his findings Tuesday, said the department will need a new space in about three to five years.

Until then, Thornton recommended that the environmental health division could move to rental office space near the current building.

He estimated the cost for about 2,300 square feet space could be about $27,600 for a year, plus an estimated $10,000 for improvements.

The space formerly occupied by environmental health could then be converted to provide offices for nutritionists and support staff, Thornton said.

The total project cost for the first year is projected at $52,250, but the cost to construct a new building would be much higher.

“To build for current needs will be quite costly,” said Thornton, noting the department recommended a new building would need to be more than 15,000 square feet.

Commissioners discussed options for relocation, which ranged from foreclosure opportunities to reusing the courthouse if a new one is built.

County Manager Doug Derrer said the staff would continue to explore those options, but asked the commission to consider a temporary space.

“There are some needs in that office for the short term to alleviate some very difficult work conditions,” Derrer said.

The changes could provide new space for employees by next spring, he said.