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Paris/Lamar County health board meets Thursday to discuss lawsuit, proposed new location

… the proposed new home at Southwest 4th Street and Sherman Street for the Paris/Lamar County Health Department and the New Hope Center women’s shelter. (eParisExtra.com photo by Charles Richards)

By CHARLES RICHARDS

eParisExtra.com

A special meeting has been called of the Paris/Lamar County Board of Health for 6 p.m. Thursday.

The meeting will be at the health department, located at the corner of West Washington Street and Sixth Street Southwest.

Executive director Gina Prestridge will update the board on:

  • New facility for the health department and WIC (Women, Infants & Children)
  • Indigent Health Care Program
  • Flu Shot Clinic

Health department executive director Gina Prestridge and RAM Foundation representative Andy Fasken (eParisExtra photo by Charles Richards)

The board will “discuss and possibly take action” on one or more of those items.

Then the board will go into executive session “to receive legal advice from legal counsel” concerning a lawsuit filed against the health department, former executive director Anthony Bethel and the City of Paris by Cecilia Kane, who was terminated from the health department.

The lawsuit was resolved months ago, but a condition of the settlement was that members of the health board would complete open government training required by not only the city council but all members of city boards.

Several doctors on the old board, whose membership changed during the summer, reportedly did their training for the Texas Open Meetings Act and the Public Information Act, but not in the specified time, so Kane’s attorney brought the suit again.

The board as now constituted consists of Dr. Rick Erickson, chairman; Dr. Keith House, vice chairman; Kristi Martin, treasurer; and members Dr. William George, Dr. Mark Gibbons, Dr. Lav Singh, and Bill Strathern. Strathern is in his second year of a three-year term; the others are in their first year.

The city council got an update last week on the health department’s proposed new home at West Sherman Street and Fourth Street Southwest, replacing the current facility, which has been described as no longer acceptable for many reasons.

The item was listed for discussion in executive session during the council’s Sept. 24 meeting, but the council opted to have it in open session instead. Prestridge was joined at the speaker’s forum by Andy Fasken of Paris, representing the RAM Foundation, which funds New Hope Center, a women’s shelter formerly known as Models of the Maker.

The facility at Fourth and Sherman will cost $200,000, payable over 10 years – interest free for the first three years with a $25,000 annual payment. Over the last seven years of the note, interest would be at 6 per cent.

The Paris City Council and the Lamar County Commissioners Court share equally in funding for the health department.

“I understand the (Paris City Council) is in favor of helping purchase the building and the (Lamar County Commissioners Court) evidently is not,” Fasken said.

“We’re trying to help New Hope Shelter get into a new facility, and we’ve been talking about ways to make that happen. Basically, we would like to step in and take the county’s position if that would work, if that would help,” Fasken said.

New Hope Shelter is also dealing with outdated and inadequate facilities and has been looking for a new site. Fasken said there is room in the proposed health department’s new site for both the health department and New Hope Shelter.

“We’ve been talking about ways to make that happen,” Fasken told the council on Sept. 24.

In addition to the annual payments of $25,000 a year, Prestridge told the council in an earlier meeting that it would take about $100,000 to renovate the building, which has been vacant for several years.

“My original estimate was $100,000, and the bid (from Bobby Smallwood) came in at $107,120,” she said.

The estimated costs to renovate the builiding are:

  • heating and air conditioning system, $40,000
  • flooring, $20,000
  • electrical work, $17,000
  • furniture and supplies, $15,000
  • window glass replacement, $3,000
  • cleaning, $5,000

“There is some room for flexible issues in there that I did go over with Bobby Smallwood’s office that could offset the cost, to bring it down. There is a fee in there from Smallwood that is negotiable also, and there is a possibility the bid could come in at exactly $100,000,” Prestridge said.

Mayor AJ Hashmi asked if the remodeling contained within that bid would satisfy the needs of both the health department and the New Hope Center, and Prestridge said it would.

Fasken said the RAM Foundation is satisfied with the price for the building and that his group is willing to join with the city either as a tenant or as the purchaser of the building.

“I think it’s probably a very reasonable price,” Fasken said.

District 5 councilman Matt Frierson thanked Fasken and the RAM Foundation “for stepping up to the plate.” Frierson said, “I wish the county would have shared in this, but I guess they get to make their own decision.”

Fasken replied, “I understand they (the county) have raised their amount they are giving to the health department in the coming year, so maybe that will help somewhat.”

Mayor pro-tem Richard Grossnickle, who represents District 4, said: “I think it’s generous of RAM Foundation and Mr. Fasken for current and future supply of the women’s shelter and the health department.”

District 1 councilman Aaron Jenkins said: “I think it’s a good thing they are going together.”

Fasken said property owned by the shelter at the northeast corner of Lamar Avenue and Eighth Street was sold recently “because it was not ever going to work for us.” Proceeds from that would be put into the new facility, he said.

The old Models of the Maker home at Bonham Road and West Eighth Street, across the street from the old police building, is a shambles and will probably be torn down.

“It is so deteriorated and old, and the cost would just be prohibitive as far as we are concerned – good money after bad to spend money on it. So we likely will try to sell the property, and also use any proceeds from that to put into the new,” Fasken told the council.

Hashmi said: “It’s obviously dilapidated. I just want to make sure it doesn’t end up being a dilapidated structure that just stands there forever. If anything can be done to bring that down …”

“We agree with that,” Fasken said. “Not sure how it will happen. I just know we don’t plan to stay there.”

Fasken said the RAM Foundation would like to move as quickly as possible to close the deal on the proposed new facility at Fourth and Sherman, and the mayor said the matter would be placed on the agenda for the council’s Oct. 8 meeting for action.

“The sooner the better, but I think that would do it,” Fasken replied.

“So we will try to solve it then,” the mayor said.

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