Lubbock begins $2 million Public Health Department move to new facility

Updated: Dec. 21, 2020 at 5:36 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The Lubbock City Council on Monday unanimously agreed to enter into a contract for a $1.1 million building to house the Public Health and Community Development Departments. It set aside a total of $2 million for the project.

“The location that the Facilities Committee is proposing is really a good location to serve the constituency of public health,” Mayor Pro Tem Steve Massengale said. “It’s a building that’s easily renovated and it just provides for so many more opportunities for public health as as they continue to serve our community.”

The 29,000 square foot building is located at 2015 50th Street, which is near Avenue U. It sits on 2.82 acres of property.

The departments are currently in a leased Lubbock Housing Authority building at 18th Street and Crickets Avenue in downtown Lubbock. According to the City of Lubbock, next year’s rent is $103,318.

“LHA has been a very good and very accommodating landlord,” City Manager Jarrett Atkinson said. “In this year as we have certainly grown to take over every hallway, corridor, closet and anything else we can find, they just work with us very well. But, the facility itself is very constrained, very limited as to what we can do in there.”

The Public Health Department has been housed in that downtown facility since 2012. Director Katherine Wells told the Council she soon had to make room for an expanding staff.

“One of my first jobs was hiring a new health educator,” Wells said. “At that time, to create space for that individual, we actually converted our pharmacy from an actual storeroom to a filing cabinet. So, we moved all of the medication out and into a filing cabinet that’s stored next to the Xerox machine, in order to make space for that new position. Since then, we’ve grown tremendously.”

In just this year, according to the City, the staff has grown from 27 to 39 full-time employees.

“My goals with public health here have been about building community capacity, aligning resources, identifying gaps in our community, filling those gaps when there’s nobody else to fill them, linking people to care and all of those things are things that we can do better with a more flexible space,” Wells said. “I see this building as an opportunity to have that flexible space.”

Council members expressed satisfaction with the building’s location, high traffic and the ability to reach more people.

“We’re just right in the middle, really of the primary blocks of users for that facility,” Atkinson said.

In 2019, according to the City, 50th Street in front of the building saw approximately 24,816 vehicles per day while Avenue U saw an estimated 4,777 vehicles per day.

“Whoever finds themselves in need of the services at the Lubbock Health Department, one of the most important things for me, with regard to looking in this direction is the fact of the accessibility,” Councilwoman Shelia Patterson-Harris said. “No matter where you come from, in the city of Lubbock, north, south, east or west, the accessibility to this location would work well.”

City officials said the $2 million for the project, which accounts for incidental expenses, would be from excess general fund reserves and reimbursement funds. The contract approved today allows for a 60-day feasibility time period before the purchase is closed.

“I guess Christmas comes four days early for the health department,” Mayor Dan Pope said.

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