Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

January 15, 2014

Ready for occupancy: New heath center a reality

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — Mercer County’s new and long-awaited $3.9 million health center — a project that dates back to 2009 — will finally open to the public next week. At the moment, employees are busy moving equipment, files, boxes and other items from the temporary site in Bluefield to the new health center in Green Valley. But they are confident that the facility will be ready for the public to use come Jan. 21.

The county was awarded $3.9 million in federal funding for the project five years ago by the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd. And U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., secured an additional $254,430 in federal funds for the new health center. Local funding support, including from the Shott Foundation, helped with the final construction costs. However, a number of delays and design changes slowed the project. For example, the cost of the structure was reduced by more than $600,000 in 2012 after the project design was changed to not include the Mercer Charitable Clinic. Representatives of the free clinic decided not to be based in the new health center site. As a result, the size of the new health center was reduced to 2,000 square feet from 2,500 square feet.

Ground was broken on the new health center in late 2012. The old facility was demolished earlier that year.

The original structure — built during the 1960s — was poorly insulated, and many of its fixtures did not work. Mold was often a problem in the structure, and some rooms were closed off because they were not needed. As a result of the demolition and the new building construction, the health center had to operate out of a temporary site in Bluefield for the past three years

But the new state-of-the-art 11,545 square foot facility is finally ready for public occupancy. It will officially open next Tuesday. That’s good news for citizens across the county, as the old Blue Prince Plaza location in Green Valley is a more centrally located site for the health center. Many long-time residents remember that this shopping center used to be a bustling center of commercial activity with not only the Mercer County Health Department, but also the old Hill’s Department Store, the old Ponderosa Steakhouse, and a number of other smaller businesses.

“We will be back in our old territory,” health department Executive Director Susan Kadar said Monday. “It is more centrally located. It will be easier for folks to get to.”

We are glad to see the long-awaited completion of this new health center. The new and modern facility will benefit citizens across Mercer County who come to the facility for assistance. It should also help in bringing foot traffic back to the old Blue Prince Plaza area. And that, in return, could lead to additional growth in the area. The new health center is a win-win for everyone.