Primary Healthcare Centers, a non-profit medical provider, has a new location in Rossville.
The group will pay the Walker County Board of Education $2,500 a month to operate at 205 Jenkins Road, Schools Superintendent Damon Raines announced in a press release this morning. The non-profit has operated at 1430 Suggs Street for the last 10 years.
The county government owns that 8,800-square foot space. And since moving in, Primary Healthcare Centers has paid $1 a year to lease the building. Under Commissioner Bebe Heiskell, the county also agreed to cover the cost of utilities and major maintenance repairs.
But after taking office last year, Commissioner Shannon Whitfield said the local government could no longer afford such a deal. He asked the non-profit to pay $8,800 a month in rent. Primary Healthcare Centers CEO Diana Allen said the group could not afford that rate.
Allen countered by offering $2,500 a month to Whitfield. The commissioner said no. Lawyers for the two sides met in January to discuss a potential settlement. Both sides declined to comment when the Times Free Press asked about the results of that meeting.
The school board's release does not clarify which specific building the clinic will be in. The board owns two properties next to each other: Fairview Elementary School and a separate parcel, located behind the school at the corner of Jenkins Road and Circle Drive.
That building is 4,000 square feet — a little less than half that of the current location. The lease will run from March 1 through Feb. 28, 2019.
Before this deal, the non-profit had two clinics located on elementary school campuses in North Georgia. One is at Tiger Creek Elementary School in Ringgold. The other is at Gilbert Elementary School in LaFayette.
Whitfield defended his price demand by saying that, per square foot, his offer was on par with what CHI Memorial Hospital pays the cities of Chickamauaga and LaFayette to lease space for clinics.
One thing has complicated this negotiation for Whitfield: The county received a $460,000 grant from the Department of Community Affairs to renovate the current clinic building. As part of the deal, the county has to offer some sort of service for poor people or pay back a portion of the grant money. The contracts lasts through 2028.