published Monday, August 25th, 2014

St. Luke Interfaith Clinic set to move to old National Guard Armory

South Pittsburg's old National Guard armory building.
South Pittsburg's old National Guard armory building.

SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — St. Luke Interfaith Clinic will have a new home in South Pittsburg after a contract is finalized with the city.

City Administrator Sammy Burrows said officials with the clinic requested to move their organization to the town's old National Guard Armory building recently.

St. Luke Clinic is a nonprofit organization that provides non-emergency medical care to Marion County residents who don't have health insurance.

"They operate off of a grant from the state," Burrows said. "Basically, that grant pays for about $25 per patient. They have volunteer doctors, volunteer nurses and volunteer nurse practitioners that actually keep the clinic up and running."

The Sequatchie Valley Honor Guard was using the armory as its home, but over the summer, that group moved permanently to Kimball, Tenn., leaving four empty rooms that the clinic can use.

The South Pittsburg City Commission voted unanimously to grant permission for Burrows to proceed with the planned move while City Attorney Billy Gouger works on a lease agreement for the board to consider at its next meeting.

"I think it's a great location for the clinic," Mayor Jane Dawkins said. "We're saving space [at the armory] for an eventual food bank. We want that, ultimately, to be a true community center area, and not just an emergency thing."

One problem that will have to be addressed before the clinic moves is the lack of heat or air conditioning at the armory.

Burrows said a local contractor examined the rooms that St. Luke Clinic will utilize, and he can install wall units for heat and air.

"There are existing places for those already," Burrows said.

The contractor believes he can get the needed units "at cost," Burrows added, and a local civic organization has agreed tentatively to cover the cost of the units and installation.

"I think it would be great, especially if we can get some help on the air conditioning," said Dawkins.

Burrows said the clinic's move to the armory should not have any effect on a grant the city is pursuing to make various upgrades to the facility.

Gouger said the contract will include a 30-day "out clause" if that does become a problem.

"If it becomes a disqualifying issue for grant eligibility or some low-interest loan or something like that, the city needs the ability to terminate the agreement and take the space back," he said.

Thirty days is a "relatively short period of time," Gouger said, but it should give the organization enough time to move if that becomes necessary.

"I think that would be fair to the city and reasonable notice to the clinic as well, if [South Pittsburg] needed to do that," he said.

Burrows said the clinic "provides important services to [South Pittsburg's] citizens" and the armory will make a great home for it.

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.

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