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County eyes new home for clinic

Clallam County's commissioners gave staff the go-ahead to buy a commercial structure just steps away from the courthouse.

Clallam County administrator Jim Jones said his staff and the owner of the land and building at 111 E. Third St., Port Angeles, have agreed on a tentative price of $775,000. At their Feb. 26 meeting, the commissioners approved the purchase, a process set to begin this week.

"If we are able to purchase this land just north of the Safeway parking lot, it will cause a domino effect of plans we have for expansion," Jones said. "We would move the Health and Human Services free clinic into the first floor of the building, making additional room for jail and office expansions."

Commissioner Mike Doherty said he's heard complaints about the clinic's accessibility for the disabled and he is happy to see a site more geared toward Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

"People are able to get to the current clinic but it involves possibly wet stairs or a longer trip to the elevator in an area that isn't necessarily open after hours,' Doherty said.

Mike Chapman, commission chairman, said the purchase is covered by dedicated funds.

"We have been budgeting for this move for the last four years," he said. "So now people will be able to go to this new, distinct clinic for the county supported vaccines, flu shots, immunizations and the like."

Jones said the purchase price and the cost to improve the space to health clinic standards is likely to fall within the earmarked $1.3 million.

"Plus, we don't plan on kicking out any of the tenants upstairs in the building, so their rents will help offset the expenses and eventually become revenue," Jones said.

The city of Sequim hoped to use a similar tactic to purchase Bell Creek Plaza on the east side of town for a new city hall, using rents from tenants to offset costs. However, because the city planned to go into debt to purchase the structure and use the rents to pay off the debt, the plan was deemed illegal, a problem the county will not face because it has the money for the purchase.

"Once the clinic is moved we will have the room for an expansion of the jail and associated offices, a second phase which I don't expect to begin for years," Chapman said. "But the second phase was considered in our current jail expansion plans so we will not double back on any progress we've made or money we've spent."

For more information about the Clallam County board of commissioners, Health and Human Services or other county departments, visit www.clallam.net.

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