County purchases two buildings for community center, health clinic


Published: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 7:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 11:45 p.m.

A government and community organization partnership to improve health care access and bring youth activities to an unincorporated area west of Gainesville that struggles with crime and poverty has advanced, but it needs a significant amount of additional funding to become reality.

On Tuesday, the County Commission unanimously voted to purchase two foreclosed quadruplexes in the Linton Oaks apartment complex, with plans for one building to be a community resource center and the other an Alachua County Health Department clinic serving the area bounded by Tower Road, Interstate 75 and Southwest 24th Area that is sometimes known as the “Tower Triangle.”

The county will pay federal mortgage lender Freddie Mac $130,000 for the units, which stand on the 800 block of Southwest 64th Terrace.

The purchases were approved with a mix of optimism for the impact the facilities might have and concern over costs — not for purchase but the renovation. During the budget process last summer, the County Commission set aside $225,000 for the purchase and renovation of a building for a community resource center. At the request of a nonprofit organization operating in the area, the Southwest Advocacy Group, the potential health clinic was added to the mix.

The County Commission has committed to fund the renovation of the community resource center.

On Tuesday, county staff said that, based on an initial floor design provided to the county, needed renovations for the building that would house the community center could include gutting the building, the construction of new interior walls and new heating, air, plumbing and fire suppression systems. Facilities Director Charlie Jackson’s cost projection for that work was $192,000 to $256,000.

SWAG officer Dorothy Benson said the group was prepared to scale back the design to meet the county’s budget.

Meanwhile, the Health Department and the Sheriff’s Office are among the organizations seeking grant funding to renovate and equip the second building, which would house the clinic.

The clinic would serve an area that, according to University of Florida College of Medicine research, has the highest number of Medicaid births and the highest concentration of low-birth weight babies in the county.

Paul Myers, assistant director of the Health Department, said there are “documented needs” in the area and the department’s plan is to one day have a clinic open six days and two nights a week.

The Health Department plans to apply for a $100,000 federal grant. The Sheriff’s Office applied for a grant of up to $500,000.

In 2009, the Sheriff’s Office ended an after-school program it operated in the area. Since then, the agency has been involved in the SWAG group’s efforts, as have several local churches, civic groups and the Alachua County Library District.

The Partnership for Strong Families would staff and operate the community resource center. The Rotary Clubs of Gainesville Foundation has pledged $64,000 to furnish and purchase computers for that center.

Contact Christopher Curry at 374-5088 or chris.curry@gvillesun.com.

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