Delaware General Health District’s new build approved

By Dillon Davis - [email protected]

The Delaware General Health District (DGHD) will soon be upgrading its facility, pending financial capability, as its Final Development Plan for the construction of a new building was approved by Delaware City Council Monday.

Per council’s emergency guidelines adopted last month in the midst of the virus outbreak, which transferred the power of the city’s boards and commissions to council in order to further prevent the need for staff to gather, the Final Development Plan came directly to council for consideration. While just a first reading of the ordinance, the rule requiring three readings was suspended and the ordinance was approved unanimously.

Currently located downtown at 3 W. Winter St., the approved plan will see the district eventually relocate to 470 S. Sandusky St., between Birch Bend and English Terrace. The site, which spans approximately 9.4 acres, formerly belonged to famed evangelist Leroy Jenkins, who passed away in 2017.

Approved is a one-story, 30,000-square-foot building to be constructed on the site, which will serve as the district’s main office location. The site plans allow for a 10,000-square-foot expansion to be made at some point in the future. There will be one access point to the building, located on South Sandusky Street, with an emergency-only drive leading to the site from Magnolia Drive.

There is an existing home that sits on the western portion of the site. The home will remain with the construction of the new DGHD building until the district has the funding to either demolish or repurpose the home. The district had previously mentioned that the home could be used for storage space. However, with the building first needing to be brought up to code before it can be used as storage, DGHD representatives said they would not pursue renovations of the building as part of this project.

Throughout prior meetings to discuss the Preliminary Development Plan for the building, concerns were raised about the lack of buffering between the site and the existing homes to the north and west. As a solution, DGHD has included a six-foot privacy fence to the approved plan that will be constructed along the northern, southern, and western edges of the property.

The fence will be installed in two phases, with an emphasis on the northern and western edges as the homes there are closest to the parking lot and building itself. Fences on those property lines must be installed prior to the building receiving the final occupancy permit. Phase two of the fencing, which will span the southern property line, must be installed one year from the issuing of the final occupancy permit.

Because the homes to the north sit closest to the building, evergreen trees will also be required to be planted along a stretch of more than 400 feet to provide further buffering between for the residents on English Terrace.

In response to a question by a member of the public about whether the new construction would result in a tax increase, Health Commissioner Sheila Hiddleson pointed out that levy dollars cannot be used on the project. Therefore, Hiddleson said there would not be an increase as a result of the construction.

However, Hiddleson did go on to say, “Our plan is to not have to do anything new. However, I would share that this pandemic has certainly brought to light the number of dollars it takes to run this type of response. So, while it is not our plan at this point … I can’t promise anything other than to tell you that it is not our plan.”

DGHD Board Vice President Patrick Blaney said DGHD will need to reassess its financial standing and the impact the COVID-19 outbreak has had on the district’s budget first before moving forward, particularly as it pertains to constructing the new building.

“This has been quite an effort we’ve been through over the last few years to get to this point,” Blaney said. “We appreciate all the considerations our partners at the city have given us to get to this point. We are looking forward to doing this project, it’s not like we’re not going to do it. But as Sheila said, we have to take a look over the next month or two to see how our financial situation is going to look, particularly as it has to do with contact tracing because that could be a huge impact on our financial situation.”

Hiddleson said 75% of the DGHD staff is working in nursing and disease response during the pandemic, which operates off of levy dollars. Because of the focus on those teams, the district hasn’t been able to do some of the other things that would normally bring in revenue, which can be allocated for projects like the new building.

“If this really does go on for 12 months, it’s definitely going take some of those dollars away from other things,” Hiddleson said, singling out the fund for the new building as a possibility.

By Dillon Davis

[email protected]

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.