Herald-Leader Editorial

Get to bottom of clinic funding

Board, feds raise overdue questions

December 11, 2013 

The saga of the stunted efforts to build a second public health clinic in Lexington, on Southland Drive, has had so many twists and turns that it often seems like nothing could surprise.

That, it turns out, is not the case.

Staff writer Mary Meehan reported this week that the federa. agency responsible for the $11.7 million grant to build the clinic had written developer Ted Mims, hired to manage the project on land in which he is a minority partner, asking him to provide documentation of the work for which he's already been paid $150,000.

Meehan talked with the chief financial officer of the Lexington Fayette County Health Department, Jack Cornett, who had reviewed what Mims submitted. "It's impossible to determine how much Mims worked," he said.

This state of affairs has led the new board of HealthFirst, the agency designated to build and operate the clinic, to consider pulling the plug entirely on the Southland project in order to find another site where a badly needed clinic can be up and running in a timely fashion.

So far, no big surprises. The federal government should be looking into what taxpayers have gotten for their money from Mims. The board should be reconsidering the financial viability of a project which has racked up huge expenses but never seems to go anywhere.

The new twist is the response from the Mims camp.

Attorney Richard Getty charged that the board's concerns weren't about money at all, but about race and class.

"Do you think a bunch of rich, uppity white people don't want minorities over there being served by public health?" he asked Meehan.

It's a ridiculous charge, a lame attempt at diversion, but it fails even on the facts.

Presumably Getty was talking about people in the Southland neighborhood where, according to census information, in 2011 the average value of a house was $142,179, and the median household income was $52,025 a year.

Compare that to the $15,000 a month Mims was being paid and the $25,000-a-month rent HealthFirst has been paying Mims and his partner for a building that is unoccupied and slated for demolition.

We can't speak to "uppity" but Mims and his partner seem to beat out the Southland neighborhood in "rich" by a long shot.

As for Mims' well-compensated and unverified efforts on behalf of this yet-unrealized project, Getty had some choice words. "I know Teddy and I know he worked his tail off on this project," he said.

Safe to say, most taxpayers don't know "Teddy" and would like to see verification that he's done the work for which he's been so well compensated.

The HealthFirst board and the feds overseeing this project are asking the right questions and must persist until there are satisfactory answers.

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