While the Monroe Co. Health Dept. building, which is owned by the county, is getting major upgrades, the staff has been able to move next door to continue COVID testing, vaccinations and other services.

While the Monroe Co. Health Dept. building, which is owned by the county, is getting major upgrades, the staff has been able to move next door to continue COVID testing, vaccinations and other services.

Work has begun renovating Monroe County Health Department. The job was awarded to Robert Muckenfuss of Proform Construction LLC, Forsyth with the low bid of $745,000. The company was the general contractor for the construction of the new Lamar County Health Department a couple of years ago and has completed several major jobs locally, according to Morris Hutcheson of Georgia Department of Public Health North Central Health District, the project manager for the renovations.

Hutcheson updated Monroe County Board of Health on the project at its quarterly meeting on March 8. He said the bid was less than anticipated, which leaves funds to do some extra renovations/additions that he didn’t think would be funded. Monroe County Commissioners received a Community Development Block Grant for the project and the the county has committed additional funds. Monroe County Board of Health committed $75,000 to the renovations. 

Hutcheson said the architect for the Health Department renovations has worked with Muckenfuss on other projects and is pleased to be working with him on this one. Hutcheson said the project has about $145,000 in additional funds. The architect and Muckenfuss recommended that the health board and commissioners look at plans for the roof. Hutcheson said the planned metal roof only has a warranty for 20 years while a commercial roof has a lifetime warranty and is less expensive. Health board chair Dr. Jeremy Goodwin said he hopes it’s another 30 years before the board has to work on roofing for the health department building again.

Hutcheson said the back courtyard could be expanded to give the health department more room. He will take the proposals to the Board of Commissioners to approve a change order. Board of Health members approved the recommendations unanimously. 

Hutcheson said the contractor started the demolition phase of the renovations about a month ago and encountered some obstacles with asbestos. The work stopped for testing. The ceiling tiles in the oldest section of the building tested negative for asbestos, but “black glue” was found in the floor tiles. Hutcheson said the contractor can seal the floor tiles and pour over them. All of the heating & air ductwork has asbestos, which will incur about $19,000 in asbestos removal. The cost will be reimbursed by the grant. 

Hutcheson said they are taking out a lot of old metal windows and repairing all soffits. Cedar beams about 9-foot long will be added on the front and will improve the look of the facade. A meeting room will be added to the back; WIC (federally funded nutrition program for Women, Infants, Children) will use the room for training classes and will contribute funds to pay for it. The room will be used for Health Department training but could also be used after hours for meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous. 

Board members asked if the room will have an exterior access. Hutcheson said it will not but can be accessed from the clinical side of the building on the back. Nurse manager Whitney Lovett said access to the back will be with badges. Board members asked about restrooms; Hutcheson said there will be one public restroom in the front of the building. Board member Dr. Mike Hickman suggested retrofitting restrooms to be touch activated.  

The Health Department staff has moved to a nearby facility previously occupied by the District Attorney’s Office and is continuing to provide its regular services, as well as COVID testing and COVID vaccines, during the renovations.