The Sunflower County Health Department building on U.S. 49 is apparently plagued with potentially dangerous and possibly unhealthy conditions.
A delegation of officials with the Mississippi Department of Health, including local health department representatives, met with the Sunflower County Board of Supervisors on January 21 to provide them with a list of concerns and situations related to the building’s steadily deteriorating condition.
Jonathan Chaney, the new health department administrator for the state’s northern counties, Tracy Weeks, manager for the two Sunflower County offices, Debra Tubbs, manager of several western Mississippi offices and Deanna Jones, County Coordinating Nurse for the county made up the envoy that met with the members.
Weeks told the county leaders that the heating and cooling unit was the most pressing issue at the moment. Also on her list was a leaky roof, electrical outlets that possibly sparked two small fires, a lack of lighting in the parking lot, rusted plumbing fixtures and fading floor tiles.
County Maintenance Director Daniel Kent said he has already contacted several contractors, multiple times to come and check out the 10-ton unit, but so far no one has followed through with a quote to replace the defective unit. Kent said, “I've done all I can do to contact the vendors around in this area to come out and give me a quote on installing the unit.”
He said replacing it is not something that he could do himself, because it would require a crane to lift the unit to the roof of the building. He noted, however, that one of the two units up there had already been replaced, and that the one in question is the remaining original unit that has completely stopped working.
District 1 Supervisor Glenn Donald questioned whether or not the members had already discussed replacing the rooftop units with a ground unit. Kent said it had been mentioned, but changing out the unit type would require changing out all of the ductwork and finding a space in the building for the heating unit.
He stressed that the problem is the age of the unit and not if a different type system would be better. Donald said, “I just know people that won't go on the top of a building. I know a guy do heating and cooling work now and if you got one on top of a building he won't go touch it.”
Kent stressed that it would be very costly to change from the existing roof system to a ground-level system and a discussion ensued that resulted in President Riley Rice rapping his gavel and instructing the members to just listen for now. “Then we'll decide on how we're going to do it. We can't decide here today, because we need to do an assessment as to what it will cost to put them on the ground or on top," he said.
With regard to the leaky roof, the health department representatives suggested that the problem may exist because the roof is flat. However, Kent said the flat roof is not the problem, but the leak is the result of a backflow that cannot drain properly into a ditch.
The ditch is higher than the drain and according to Kent that causes the water flow to stagnate.
“It runs so slow that it backs back up through the drain pipe,” he said.
According to him the maintenance of the ditch is a Mississippi Department of Transportation issue and MDOT has to be the one to correct the problem.
Kent said he has spoken with MDOT on several occasions, but to no avail. He said digging the ditch out would make a big difference.
For the time being, Kent and his workers put containers under the elbows in the pipes to catch the water and go out to empty the buckets every time it rains.
Weeks also mentioned the electrical outlets and reported that they have had at least two electrical fires and there are no smoke detectors in the building. “We have a fire extinguisher,” she said.
Donald suggested that the fire department might provide the smoke detectors for free, but Weeks indicated that they would not.
However, she said that the fire department has been out to tell them how many detectors are required.
Weeks also reported inadequate lighting for the parking area, which she stressed as being a safety hazard for persons working late.
She alluded to the possibility of at least one light in the parking lot; however, Jones, who is a nurse at the facility, said there are none.
As for the bathroom fixtures, “They’re old, old, old bathroom fixtures and several times they rust and they leak and it may be the weekend and we get back on Monday and the building is flooded,” Weeks said.
She implied that the whole building is in need. “Well, it needs to be a place that somebody is willing to come in,” she said. Weeks added that the patients are beginning to complain because many bring their infants in for services.
“We did some updates now, we fixed y’all doors and we fixed your windows,” Donald said. He reminded her that a company was hired to weather-strip all of the doors and windows. Jones indicated that some were not completed.
Donald then asked Kent if the building’s needs had been assessed. “We did a walk through, but we didn’t get no quotes on it or nothing like that,” Kent said. Donald alluded to some of the items being mentioned before. “Three years ago they brought it to us,” he said.
Weeks invited the members to come look at the facility for themselves to remove any doubt about the work that is needed. Rice indicated that they would look over the facility, do an assessment and get back with them. “We won’t forget you all,” he said.
Kent was tasked with finding out what needs to be done and reporting back to the county leaders at their next session.
In addition, Chaney mentioned the possibility of closing one of the county’s two facilities. “Right now we have the clinic in Ruleville as well, and it is open one day a week and we see on average about six or seven patients when it's open there,” he said.
Noting that there is a clinic just eight miles away in Cleveland, plus the one here in Indianola, Chaney said, "We would certainly support closing that clinic and moving all of the operation in Sunflower County to Indianola." However, he left the decision up to the county supervisors.
In other business,
In a discussion about the disposition of an old clinic building in Moorhead, Donald said a conversation with the town’s mayor indicated that Moorhead intended to revert ownership of the dilapidated structure back to the county.
Bishop Willie B. Knighten wants to purchase the building for use as office space for a project that his daughter is undertaking.
Attorney Johnny McWilliams said that once the county regains ownership the property can be sold, but not donated.