Wednesday, February 14, 2007

TOP STORY >>Health office set to move

Leader staff writer

Cabot is in line for a new health department to replace the old one beside the senior citizens center and Mayor Eddie Joe Williams says he would like to see it built downtown. The old building is too small and the parking there is inadequate, the mayor said. If the state opts for a new building instead of renovating an old one, he wants it built beside the old post office on South First Street, which now houses the city’s public works department.

The new mayor has not announced anything called a downtown revitalization plan, but his comments during various meetings held since he took office show that he is concerned about the vigor of the downtown area. At the very least, he has said, he doesn’t want to see any buildings sitting empty, especially in downtown. At press time, little information was available about the new health department except it will be funded this year. Williams said he is meeting with health department officials Tuesday, Feb. 20, and will know more then.

Not only would a $500,000 health department building on South First Street be good for the downtown area it would also be good for the clients because it would be within walking distance of pharmacies, he said. Ann Wright, spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Health, said the decision to give Cabot a new building was based on many factors including recommendation by the regional office, the number of clients served, an independent inspection of the old facility by a group that includes engineers and community support for a new one.

Williams said the city would have to provide a lot for a new building. There is room beside the old post office. And if the health department is built there, he would also like to renovate the old post office to make it fit in better with the new building. With last year’s purchase of the old Community Bank building next door to city hall, the city has a lot of space that it isn’t currently using. The mayor has talked about moving public works to the bank building and moving the school’s museum to the old post office.

The museum was previously housed in one of the old buildings that was torn down to make way for the new high school.
That plan is not firm, but Williams said he is working on it. Williams also is talking to the Cabot Chamber of Commerce about moving into the bank building. And on Tuesday, the Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission met and agreed to talk seriously to the city about buying the city annex on South 1st Street where Cabot WaterWorks billing office and Cabot District Court are now housed.

The commission was considering several prospects for office space, but Williams has implored them to consider buying the annex and not move out of downtown. Bill Cypert, the secretary of the commission, said Williams has not given a price and the commission has not made an offer. But for now, the city annex is tops on the list of choices for office space.