County could use CARES Act money to build new health department

Project also includes construction of new emergency supply warehouse

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GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The Board of County Commissioners is one step closer to getting a new health department facility and emergency supply warehouse.

The county is expected to receive roughly $10 million as part of the CARES Act, which is 25% of a larger $40 million the county could receive. The $10 million is upfront money while the remaining amount will likely be given in the form of a reimbursement. The county must decide what it wants to purchase with the idea of reimbursement in mind but it must be done before the end of the year.

“The overall amount is [about] $40 million,” County manager Howard Wanamaker said during a June 30 special BCC meeting. “A quarter of that is $10 million. We need to figure out what to do with the other $30 million.”

Wanamaker said the remaining money can be seeded from other areas of the county’s budget and then it can be spent knowing it will be reimbursed as part of the CARES Act. Wanamaker said that just as the money must be spent before the end of the year, the reimbursement funding is expected to arrive before the end of the year as well.

Wanamaker said it’s been determined that the county’s Capital Improvement Plan has about $15 million in wiggle room or, in other words, $15 million that can be pulled from other projects and put towards this reimbursement option. Emergency Management Director John Ward said it would not be beneficial for the county to lease or rent a building for a new health department facility.

“We’ve been looking at places...to collapse the Green Cove Springs facility and the Bear Run facility...into a [single] facility,” Ward said.

He said that ideally, the health department is able to purchase a facility for its actual services and a separate warehouse for the purpose of storing commodities. The county is utilizing two 10,000 square feet facilities at the fairgrounds currently and those are where emergency management supplies and commodities are held. The county only has access to those through November so something would need to be done before then.

CARES Act administrator Troy Nagle said the county has identified price estimates for the warehouse and new health department building. It’s estimated that those will be $4.5 million and $7 million respectively. Among other things, the warehouse will store state resources, food and personal protective equipment.

“It’ll serve us...during COVID but we’ve also got hurricane season coming up,” Ward said.

Wanamaker said the county is looking at these options under two different scenarios. There’s a scenario where the money the state said it would reimburse is reimbursed by the end of the year and there’s a scenario where it’s not reimbursed as stated by the state. The second scenario caused the county to identify some planned projects to delay to free up funds for the warehouse and health department facility purchases.

A College Road project and one other additional project amount to $6.5 million. Those would be delayed to a later time to free up funds as would an additional $8.5 million of projects in the form of infrastructure for roads, public safety equipment and public works equipment. If the reimbursement money comes through, these projects will be back on as they were scheduled.

The BCC voted 5-0 to hold a public hearing on July 14 about these potential purchases and scenarios.

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