Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


November 29, 2012

Under construction — New health center closer to reality

While it has taken much longer than originally planned, construction is finally underway on the new Mercer County Health Center.

This long-awaited project dates back to 2009 when the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd. secured more than $3.9 million in federal funds for the project. However, several delays, and design changes, slowed the actual construction phase of the project.

For example, the cost of the project was reduced by more than $600,000 this past summer after the project design was changed to not include the Mercer Charitable Clinic after representatives of the free clinic decided not to be based in the new health center. The clinic is currently operating at the St. Luke’s Professional Building in Bluefield. As a result, the size of the new health center was reduced to 2,000 square feet from 2,500 square feet.

The demolition of the old health center — a facility that had multiple structural and related problems — also took longer than originally anticipated.

But work on the new health center is finally underway. A groundbreaking ceremony was held last week at the old health department’s Green Valley location to celebrate the start of construction on the new facility.

“This has been a long-awaited event for us,” County Commissioner Mike Vinciguerra said. “We’ll be tickled to death when 330 days pass and we have a new building to move into.”

The scheduled completion date for the new facility is early October 2013. In the meantime, the Mercer County Health Department continues to operate out of the St. Luke’s Professional Building, which is located next door to the Health Pavilion of the Virginias.

When completed, the new health center will have 11,545 square feet of space. The old building had 22,640 square feet; however, much of the space was not used, according to County Health Officer Dr. Kathy Wides.

Health Department Administrator Melody Rickman says the project has enjoyed bipartisan support.

“People say it was a three-year process, but for us it was a five-year process,” Rickman said last week. “From day one, this was not a partisan thing. We had help from Republicans, Democrats, independents. Nobody closed a door in our face.”

The new health center is an absolute must for Mercer County. We are delighted to see that construction is finally underway on this long-awaited facility. We look forward to the opening of the new health center next year.

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