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County OKs contract for new health facility
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Screenshot by SUZETTE PORTER
Health and Community Services Director Gwendolyn Warren listens as County Commissioners ask questions Feb. 25 about costs to operate a new health facility. Constructions costs will be paid for by a federal grant.
CLEARWATER – Despite lingering questions about future maintenance and operations costs, Pinellas County Commissioners voted 6-1 Feb. 25 to award a contract for professional design build services for a new health facility to Creative Contractors Inc.

Commissioner Norm Roche voted no.

According to staff notes, the new facility, to be located at 14790 49th St. in Clearwater, will be an extension of the county’s mobile health unit, which is a federally qualified health center that currently serves the homeless population at 12 locations countywide.

“More specifically, the overall objective of this project is to provide a new health care facility to serve as a patient-centered medical home that uniquely serves the needs of homeless individuals through in-house medical care and social support services,” staff said.

Plans call for the facility to provide medical and dental care, as well as house a 24-hour medical respite facility to provide convalescent care for clients recently released from a hospital.

The project is divided into two phases. Phase 1 will include programming, schematic designs/design development and construction documents to allow for accurate subcontractor bidding and pricing that will be used to come up with a guaranteed lump sum price. Phase 2 is the building construction phase.

The commission will approve the lump sum price prior to the start of Phase 2.

The building will be constructed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environment Design, aka LEED, recommendations, but due to costs will not be formally certified.

Staff said cost of Phase 1 should not exceed $265,942. An additional cost for permits and application fees is estimated at $112,783 for a total cost of $378,725.

Total cost of the project – Phase 1 and Phase 2 – is $4.5 million to be funded by a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Capital Grant, approved May 1, 2012, for $5 million.

Health and Community Services Director Gwendolyn Warren told commissioners to continue to qualify for the grant, a decision to move forward had to be made Feb. 25.

Commissioners asked a number of questions about the cost of operations and maintenance for the new facility. Paul Sacco, director of Real Estate Management, said O&M costs had been estimated at $150,000 a year. He deferred questions about staffing to Warren.

Warren said O&M costs would be paid for from the Health and Community Services budget. She said ongoing negotiations for staffing were continuing with a number of the county’s partners that currently provide homeless services, as well as area hospitals.

“We’re working on it,” she said. “The goal is to get people into treatment.”

Other sources of funding Warren’s staff is looking at include homeless medical assistance programs and federal grants. She said the biggest anticipated shortfall is for equipment needs – dental chairs, furniture for exam rooms and the like.

“We’re trying to get grants and manage our resources,” she said.

She said cost of care would be paid for by Medicaid and private insurance billing and money from the general fund to pay for uninsured clients.

Warren and her staff are working on a number of reports that are expected to be complete in May.

“My big concern is how to pay for this,” Commission Chair Karen Seel said. “We’re still on a wing and a prayer.”

“We had 10 medical homes, now we have five and this will be six,” Warrant said. “… I believe we can manage it.”

She said the grant includes a mandated time line. The county is currently behind about one year. Warren told commissioners if they didn’t continue to move the project forward, the money could be lost.

“This gives me no choice,” Seel said.

County Administrator Bob LaSala said much of the information the commissioners wanted to know had been provided in past meetings; however, he admitted it might be helpful to have a report that put everything together in one package.

“It’s not firmed up on where the resources are coming from,” Seel said. “It’s not signed, sealed and delivered.”

“It can’t be signed, sealed and delivered until approval,” Warren replied.

She said agreements had been made with some partners, specifically the Juvenile Welfare Board and All Children’s Hospital.

“I can’t promise anything. I really can’t,” Warren said. “The plan is to not come back for resources. It is not my intention as long as I’m director to ask for more resources.”

LaSala suggested scheduling a work session to discuss the details and work that has already been done to secure resources to staff the facility.

Seel continued to express her concerns about the complications of realigning resources, saying it “could be problematic.”

“The devil is in the details,” Warren agreed.
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