Leader Blues

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

TOP STORY > >Cabot given promise of a health unit

Leader staff writer

Although the official announcement isn’t until June, Cabot has the promise from the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services of $450,000 toward the cost of building a 6,000-square-foot health department which will be five times the size of the 1,200-square-foot facility currently in use.

Mayor Eddie Joe Williams said at an estimated $125 a foot, the building will cost about $300,000 more than the state will pay.

But it might be possible to build the facility in phases, he said. Or it might be that the cost won’t be as high as anticipated.

“I’m hoping that since the economy has slowed down, this will be a good time to build it,” Williams said.

The city has donated the lot beside the old post office where public works was housed for many years to build the health department.

Since the lot is small, architect Bob Schelle has designed the new building to attach to the old one. Plans also call for updating the façade of the old building to make it match the new one.

Cabot applied for a new health department in 2007 and officials were hopeful that it would be approved then. When it wasn’t, they were confident that it would be approved this year.

Local Health Department officials say the facility needs to be larger to expand its services for women and children and to place more emphasis on communicable diseases like tuberculosis which is making a comeback.

The mayor wants the new facility downtown to help ensure the continued stability of that area. He said this week that if the health department is on First Street, more doctors and pharmacies are likely to locate downtown as well. Also, the new facility will be in walking distance of the high school and the homes of many elderly residents who might need the services it would provide.

When Williams took office in January 2007 he listed building a new health department as one of his goals. He also wanted a new post office for the residents on the west side of the city, a new armory and a north interchange to be built in conjunction with the railroad overpass now under construction. To date, the only goal still unfulfilled is the north interchange.

Before Christmas, Marty’s Cards and Gifts on Rockwood Road began contracting with the postal service to provide all the services of a post office except mailboxes.

Last week, Williams announced that the federal government is funding a $10.8 million Guard armory near the new overpass.