County wants part of old SMHC

Cole County commissioners have let state officials know they would like to move the county health department into part of the current St. Mary’s Health Center between Missouri Boulevard and Bolivar Street.

As St. Mary’s prepares to move to its new hospital in November, it has agreed to donate the current facilities to the state under certain conditions.

One of those conditions is making some of the space available for Lincoln University’s nursing program to move to the old hospital, and for a long-discussed culinary arts program be created and taught in the hospital’s kitchen area.

In January, Gov. Jay Nixon asked lawmakers to spend $10 million to renovate the current St. Mary’s after the donation announcement was made.

St. Mary’s plans to begin using its new facilities, now under construction along Missouri 179 south of Edgewood, in November, and would donate the old property to the state sometime next year.

In a letter to the Office of Administration, county commissioners said the county health department works extensively with Lincoln’s nursing program and has been exploring options to expand that working relationship.

Commissioners pointed out that the current county health department on Industrial Drive doesn’t provide for the current mission of the health department, much less expand programming and cooperation with Lincoln’s nursing program.

“We’re out of space,” said Presiding Commissioner Marc Ellinger. “We have clinic rooms where we’re supposed to teach classes, and you don’t have enough space to have two people come in. We’d like to enter into a long-term agreement with the state for use of space.”

County commissioners said the health department would need 15,000 square feet of space to address its needs.

The St. Mary’s site is roughly 320,000 square feet, and Lincoln’s needs would be somewhere in the 80,000-square-foot range.

Linn State Technical College is also looking at teaching classes at the site, and the state could also use space there for office needs.

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