By MARINA WATERS
The old Ace Hardware building on Jackson Boulevard could soon become a space for county business.
On Thursday, Aug. 1, the county’s Commerce, Industry and Agriculture Committee will consider the site for the county employee health and wellness clinic after the county commission opted to defer a resolution agreeing to renew a three-year lease for the clinic’s current building located on Cherokee Street in Jonesborough.
Commissioners said the old hardware building could be an ideal location for the election commission office, but some also felt it could be an option for the employee health and wellness clinic.
“I think it would make an excellent space for the election office if we come to that decision,” Commissioner Kent Harris said at the July commission meeting. “But with all that space, I would think that we could very well put our employee health clinic in our own building which would save us (money). I know we’re speculating, but I hate to see us go into a three-year lease with the possibility of buying this building that’s going to have so much additional space that we could utilize for (the clinic) or other county needs.”
Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy said the owner, David Sell, is getting an appraisal on the Ace Hardware building, which closed earlier this year.
However, when it comes to making the building on Jackson Boulevard into the new clinic location, privacy is a concern for some.
“When we opened the clinic three years ago, people were very hesitant. They felt like someone in the county was going to get their health information, someone was going to see them going in there,” Washington County Benefits Coordinator Michelle Stewart said. “With it being off-site — and yes, there is an expense to that — it gives the employees peace of mind. They’re going in there to get treatment and no one sees them come and go.
“I’m not advocating either space. We can make something else work, but the difficulty may be the renovations and moving the clinic over there and then just the fall back of the employees’ (privacy concerns). That would be a concern that I feel people would have.”
But would moving the location of the clinic save money?
The lease agreement with Wolfe Development for the current clinic building says renewal years cost $1,200 per month rather than the $1,100 for the first three years. After three more years, the cost will be $1,300 per month.
Though commissioners said they felt the old hardware building would be large enough to move the clinic there as well, Commissioner Suzy Williams added that the site on Cherokee Street was built to fit the needs of the clinic, which Stewart said was part of the proposal specifications for a clinic site.
“When the space was bid, we put in the specifications for the room sizes and what we needed sink-wise, counter-wise, cabinet-wise, that sort of thing,” Stewart said. “So it was customized for what we asked for.”
If the hardware building were to become an election site and the location of the clinic, that might create even more privacy concerns; Commissioner Jodi Jones, who is also a member of the CIA Committee, said Washington County Health Department Director Christen Minnick has requested at committee meetings that the health department on Princeton Road no longer be a location for early voting due to privacy concerns.
“Her number one reason for asking the election commission to move early voting out of the health department was she had concerns about people coming in for health care and feeling like their privacy was not protected,” Jones said.
The CIA Committee will meet on Thursday, Aug. 1, at 9 a.m. in the first floor conference room in the Historic Courthouse located at 100 E. Main Street, Jonesborough.