Eau Claire Taps County for $50K

WINNSBORO – In their final regular meeting of 2013, Fairfield County Council voted unanimously on Dec. 23 to pony up $50,000 to help bolster efforts by the Eau Claire Cooperative Health Center to bring a new facility to Western Fairfield County.

Interim administrator Milton Pope told Council that the facility had encountered overrun costs at the new site off Highway 215 in Jenkinsville and said that, according to Dr. Stuart Hamilton, the Cooperative’s Director, the $50,000 contribution “would be a major component in stabilizing outstanding construction overrun debt on the facility.”

Councilman Kamau Marcharia (District 4) moved that Council allocate $25,000 for the facility in February 2014 with the other half of the funds to be allocated in February 2015. Councilman Mikel Trapp (District 3) offered the second. Chairman David Ferguson (District 5) later told The Voice that the $50,000 was to cover the cost and preparation of the land on which the new facility would sit.

Council rezoned the property, located at 8991 Highway 215, from RD-1 (Rural Residential) to B-1 (Limited Business) at a special called meeting on Feb. 25, 2013. Hamilton’s group had purchased the 3.76 acres from the Trustees for the Praise and Deliverance Temple. The rezoning process and relocation of the clinic from an existing site on Meadowlake Road sparked some controversy and debate at the time as citizens from the Blair and Dawkins communities spoke against the move.

“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 during Council’s second reading of the rezoning ordinance, back on Feb. 18. “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, also of Dawkins, said during the same meeting that 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.”

Ferguson said last week that Eau Claire is funded by a $400,000 federal grant, which covers the cost of the facility. Equipping the facility will be funded by a second grant, Hamilton said on Feb. 18. The original plan, Ferguson said, when Eau Claire won the federal contract, was to put a new facility on the site of the previous clinic. However, he said, after Eau Claire took over they discovered the previous operation had left behind a trail of debt, including a $100,000 lien against the property itself. That left Eau Claire without a home in Western Fairfield.

With the grant money only targeted for an actual physical building, and not for property, Ferguson said Council knew last spring something would have to be done to help Eau Claire acquire and prep the new site.

“We knew up front, once the federal government said they weren’t going to pay for that same land twice,” Ferguson said.

Hamilton told Council back on Feb. 18 that Eau Claire Cooperative Health Center “is a federally qualified health center dealing with primary health care for all incomes. 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.”

“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,” Hamilton said during the Feb. 18 meeting. “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.”