Roof at site of planned health clinic collapses

mmeehan1@herald-leader.comFebruary 25, 2014 

The roof on one building at the site of Lexington's long-delayed $11.7 million public health clinic has collapsed.

HealthFirst Bluegrass, a non-profit mostly financed by taxes, is paying about $25,000 in rent for the building at 480 Southland Drive, where the roof collapsed, and a neighboring building at 496 Southland Drive. Those buildings are to be torn down to make way for the clinic.

Work on the federally financed clinic, to be run by HealthFirst Bluegrass, has been stalled for more than a year by mandated efforts to determine the historical value of the two buildings.

HealthFirst executive director Dr. Steve Davis said Monday evening that he hadn't heard about the roof collapse.

Project manager Ted J. Mims said he received an email about the problem about 4:30 p.m. Friday from Hilary Baumann, who is on the board of the Southland Association. He said he forwarded an email to Davis.

According to the email that Mims provided to the Herald-Leader, Davis was intended as a recipient of Baumann's original email, but she had an incorrect email address for him. Mims said he and a demolition contractor went to Southland Drive on Saturday to see whether the building was safe.

Mims, who co-owns the building with developer Greg McDonald, first said he didn't know what caused the problem but assumed it was related to weather. Mims later said a joist in the roof appeared to be rusted and had given way. Mims said he remains under contract by HealthFirst to be paid $15,000 a month to be project manager for the clinic.

Lexington Fire Department Battalion Chief Joe Best said a firefighter drove past the buildings on Friday and reported the roof collapse to the fire marshal.

A notice that the building could not be occupied was placed on the building's doors, and red tape reading "danger" was wrapped around the building. The matter has been referred to the city's Division of Code Enforcement for further action, Best said.

Money for the clinic was approved as part of the federal Affordable Care Act in 2010. The roof's collapse is the latest in a series of events that has pushed back construction. Davis took over after former executive director William North resigned in September.

Davis said he will present a plan Thursday to the HealthFirst Bluegrass board of directors for getting the clinic project back on track.

Mary Meehan: (859) 231-3261. Twitter: @bgmoms.

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