Linn County seeks $5 million from Legislature for public health building

Department has outgrown space at building, official says

James Q. Lynch
Published: February 25 2014 | 3:43 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 4:08 am in

Linn County is seeking $5 million from the state to help fund the expansion of its Public Health Department to accommodate the growing demand for services from its residents and neighboring counties.

Supervisor Linda Langston and Pramod Dwivedi, health director of Public Health, told lawmakers the current facilities in a former school are overcrowded and unhealthy.

Although the department, which receives $1.5 million in state funds for its programming, expanded its 9,000 square foot building by 3,600 square feet in 1998, it is running out of space as its staff has grown to meet higher demand for its services, Dwivedi told the House-Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Capitals Appropriations Subcommittee Tuesday.

Those services – provided to residents of Linn, Jones, Johnson, Cedar and Benton counties – include screening for breast and other cancers and diabetes, immunizations, school physicals, air quality monitoring, water testing and health education.

“The number of staff is forced to grow to continue to meet the public health needs of our growing region,” Dwivedi said. Staff has grown from 28 in 1989 to 38 in 1998. Now, the staff is at 52 and expected to grow by two later this year.

The department’s lab and clinic at 501 13th Street NW cover 60 percent of its space. That leaves little room for housing the staff, Dwivedi said. Some staff work off-site because of lack of space. The department rents space to store materials

“Because of the crowded conditions, our workspace has become unhealthy,” he said.

The county wants the $5 million to buy a former physicians’ office building in the Cedar Rapids Medical Quarter across the street from Mercy Medical Center, Langston said. The 60,000 square foot building owned by Kirkwood Community College also would house a senior citizens’ center. That would present “significant opportunities for collaboration,” she said.

In making the appeal for funding, Langston explained the county already has bonded for nearly $18 million in flood recovery projects, is discussing participation in Cedar Rapids’ flood protection plan and its residents have extended a local option sales tax to pay for road improvements and property tax relief.

The committee took no action on the request.

 

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