The local health district not only broke ground at its future home Tuesday, but it also introduced the public to a new name.
Tuesday’s ground-breaking ceremony at the impending location of 470 S. Sandusky St. in Delaware marks the moment the health district is officially known as the Delaware Public Health District (replaces Delaware General Health District). A ceremony originally scheduled to be in-person Tuesday was cancelled due to COVID-19 caution, therefore the health district is asking community leaders, partners, and residents to celebrate with it “in spirit.”
Health Commissioner Shelia Hiddleson said the health district has always been a public health agency and now the new name signifies that very detail.
“When the plan to build was finally solidified, the Board of Health last year voted to change our name to truly encompass our mission, which is to ‘promote, protect and improve the health of the community,’” said Hiddleson. “This, by definition, is the very role and responsibility of public health – and we wanted to capture this concept and identify ourselves with being dedicated to the public’s health.”
Hiddleson added the board voted to keep “District” in the name to reflect the fact that while the agency serves the majority of Delaware County, there are portions in the southern area that are annexed to Columbus and Franklin County public health agencies. Those particular jurisdictions are not included within the district boundaries.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of the health district’s almost 90-person team has been handling an extremely large volume of cases, calls and reports. For this reason, transitioning everything to reflect the new name will not happen immediately, but rather in phases.
“It will take a while to convert everything over to our new name, including signage, website graphics and content, and general public information,” said Public Information Officer Traci Whittaker. “If you see ‘Delaware General Health District’ or ‘Delaware Public Health District’ in the same manner somewhere, please know that we are the same agency behind those names working hard to protect your health.”
Whittaker added that a full transition will be completed upon relocating to the new site, which is predicted to be in the fall of 2021.
Last year, the Board of Health studied the needs of the community and the needs of the health district staff. After recognizing the current location at 3 W. Winter St. in downtown Delaware would never meet the capacity demands of a growing population or a growing staff, the decision was made to build. The planned 30,000-square-foot facility will accompany a 200-space parking lot and will have capacity to grow by 10,000 square feet if necessary.
Proceeds from the health district’s tax levy cannot be used to fund the new building. Levy dollars can only be used for operational expenses, therefore the board has saved and allocated funds from program fees and permits since 2000 to be used for a new facility purchase or construction.
The health district is thankful for the agencies that assisted in the planning process that made the new construction project possible, including local community lender First Commonwealth Bank, architect firm Moody Nolan, and construction manager Knoch Corporation.
Submitted by the Delaware Public Health District.