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Work on new FCHD home to begin soon

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

Work on the former hardware store that will become the new home of the Fayette County Health Department could get under way as soon as next week.
Rhonda Andrews, FCHD administrator, said on Wednesday that demolition work on the property in the 400 block of West Edwards Street that formerly housed Leo Brown Lumber is almost finished. That work, being done by Grubaugh Contracting, includes the demolition of three buildings.
She said that she just recently learned that work to renovate the former hardware store is now scheduled to get under way next Wednesday, with Feb. 1 currently being the scheduled completion date.
She reported to the Fayette County Board earlier this month that Johannes Construction of Centralia, with a bid of $1.26 million, was awarded the contract for the renovation of the 11,600-square-foot building.
The Fayette County Board of Health purchased the former home of Leo Brown Lumber after the Illinois Attorney General’s Office told the health department that it needed to make substantial renovations to its current home or find a new home.
“There are a lot of issues (with this building), the biggest one being that it’s not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant,” Andrews said.
“There were a lot of little things, such as door handles and doorways and ramps not being the right slope,” she said, adding that at one point, the AG’s office was mandating an elevator be installed.
The health department’s current home at 509 W. Edwards St. in Vandalia, which has about 7,200 square feet, served as a residence before being purchased by the board of health in 1986.
Andrews said that when the department learned of the deficiencies with the building, the board of health “looked at everything” when considering its options.
She said that the board decided to move forward with the relocation of the department after learning that the cost to rehabilitate the current home of the agency would be close to the purchase price of a new home.
And, she said, even if the option of making improvements to the current home was chosen, there would be several outstanding issues, including a lack of parking and the rent and utility payments associated with housing some services in a second building.
The FCHD’s home care division, with includes home health and hospice, is currently operating out of a building at 120 N. Fifth St. in Vandalia. The family and clinical services and environmental health operate out of the building at 509 W. Edwards St.
While the current home of the department was suitable at one time, the FCHD’s new home will be much better for everyone, Andrews said.
“The parking will be much better (with 63 spaces), everything will be on one floor and we’ll have everybody in the same building,” she said.
“We won’t have any ADA issues,” Andrews said. “We have been working with the AG’s office throughout the process to ensure that we address all issues.”
Andrews and other employees of the health department are watching the progress on the project, and are allowing the public to also stay updated on the work by posting photos on the Fayette County Health Department’s Facebook page, she said.