The former Verizon building on Harrodsburg Road may be out as a potential site for a new Lexington-Fayette County Health Department Primary Care Center.
Dr. Rice Leach, the county health commissioner, said Tuesday that, because of possible federal funding cutbacks, the Fayette County Board of Health might not be in a position to underwrite a lease for the building.
"Translation: we're probably not going to get the Verizon property because the primary care board has no other source of guaranteed revenue sufficient to do the financial transaction required," Leach said.
The full board of health has not yet met to discuss the situation, Leach said. But, after a Monday night meeting between health board and primary care board representatives, it appears likely that some other site will have to be found.
"I'd say it (the plan) is more than in danger," he said. "I would say that the board of health is not going to guarantee the money it would take for the Primary Care board to acquire it (the Verizon building)."
The plan now is for William North, executive director of the Primary Care Center, to work with his staff to find other possible locations, such as other buildings owned by the health department, Leach said.
"I don't see it as a disaster. We can move on and we will," he said.
North could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.
The primary care center board voted in May to pursue a long-term lease for the former Verizon building to house the proposed new Primary Care Clinic. Under that plan, the county health board was to guarantee the lease with a letter of credit. The current clinic has outgrown its space in the health department main office at 650 Newtown Pike.
The two-story Verizon building offers space, 45,000 square feet, and a convenient location on a major thoroughfare, Harrodsburg Road. Health officials had been planning to use an $11.7 million federal grant to renovate and equip it for clinic use.
Leach is concerned about funding cuts because Dr. Steve Davis, acting commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Public Health, has advised that the state may have to cut public health funding as a result of expected cutbacks in Washington.
"That led to a decision to recommend to the board of health that it not put public health dollars at risk through a line of credit to guarantee the lease for the Verizon property," Leach said Tuesday.
Other sites include a building on Georgetown Street now being used by Community Action Council; a former Applebee's headquarters building at 1065 Newtown Pike; a small clinic that the health department owns on Regency Road; and the main health department building.
Money from the federal grant apparently could be used to prepare such sites for use.
"Is this what everybody in primary care wanted? No. But with the owned real estate that the health department already has, we ought to be able to work out something," Leach said. "If we can get more mileage out of existing real estate, we ought to be doing that. And I think that's what this group is going to be looking at."