Western Fairfield Divided Over Health Clinic Rezoning

FAIRFIELD – After no small showing of protest during the public hearing portion of Monday night’s special called County Council meeting, Council passed unanimously second reading of an ordinance to rezone 3.76 acres on Highway 215 in Jenkinsville to make way for a new health care facility to serve Western Fairfield County.

While the rezoning effort drew the support of Jenkinsville Mayor Gregrey Ginyard and Angela Sparks, a spokesperson for the property’s current owner, the Trustees for Praise and Deliverance Temple, as well as Dr. Stuart Hamilton, who applied for the rezoning in an effort to establish the clinic there, several members of the Blair and Dawkins communities spoke against the change.

“We were granted 8.12 acres on Meadowlake Drive to have a doctor’s office put there,” Bruce Wadsworth of the Dawkins Community Association said. “The land is already cleaned off, it’s already paid for. Jenkinsville is a very small area. The Blair community is very large, and that facility is greatly needed there (in Blair).”

Jeff Schaffer, a long-standing public critic of Jenkinsville’s local government, said Jenkinsville was indeed too small to warrant such a facility.

“Thirty-eight people in Jenkinsville – 30 adults, eight children – don’t require a healthcare facility,” Schaffer said. “There’s no need for this to be moved and built there.”

Marshal Windham, also a resident of the area, agreed.

“I don’t understand the motivation for moving a health facility from a more densely populated area to a more sparsely populated area,” he said. “There are more people in the Blair area than in Jenkinsville.”

But Dr. Hamilton said the current facility on Meadowlake Road is in poor shape. The building leaks and has other structural problems. And, he said, it was never meant to be anything other than a temporary location. The new facility, he said, will be paid for and equipped by federal grant money.

“The Eau Claire Cooperative Health Center is a federally qualified health center dealing with primary health care for all incomes,” Hamilton said, “we have a sliding fee scale for people who can’t afford services, and no one is turned away because of inability to pay for services.

“We have competed nationally for a grant to replace that facility and we were one of 27 winners to have the replacement facility totally paid for,” Hamilton added. “The facility will be totally equipped by another grant. This is a completely amazing gift to the community in Western Fairfield County, to have no mortgage and no payments of any kind and will be run as a not-for-profit for all the residents in the service area. I think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. You may or may not agree, but it will help many people who now have some difficulty accessing the facility on Meadowlake.”

Hamilton said his group offered to purchase the property on Meadowlake, but they were able to get the property for the new facility, just south of 8991 Highway 215, for four times less.

David Ferguson, County Council Chairman, said the current facility is actually owned by Fairfield Memorial Hospital and sits on leased property. A second group had purchased 5 acres in Western Fairfield, Ferguson said, but went out of business before a new facility could be built.

“When that entity went out of business, they went out owing a contracting firm, which had a lien on that piece of property,” Ferguson said. “The County could not satisfy that lien, so therefore we abandoned that property. We could not afford to pay what the lien was on that piece of property. At which time we went back to Dr. Hamilton’s group and told him we were going to have to abandon that idea. Some time later, Dr. Hamilton called and told us he had talked to (Praise and Deliverance Temple) about purchasing their piece of property a little further down on Highway 215.

“At this time, the County has no funds involved in this endeavor,” Ferguson said. “I think it’s a good thing that folks on that side of the county will have a permanent health care facility for some time to come.”

Council also passed with no objection an ordinance to rezone 1 acre at 177 and 179 Meadowlake Road, Blair, from B-2 (General Business) to RD-1 (Rural Residential), as well as an ordinance to rezone 1 acre at 394 Hungry Hollow Road, Winnsboro, from B-2 to RD-1.

Council will hold a final reading on all three ordinances during their Feb. 25 meeting.