Focus, Government, and Health Care

Kent County finally will start work on Kentwood clinic

Transforming the former library into a health and dental center should take about nine months.

October 4, 2013
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Kent County Kentwood Clinic
The new South Kent Health and Dental Clinic will be housed in the former Kentwood Public Library building. Much of the project's $2.16 million cost will be spent on converting the space's interior. Courtesy Kent County

Work on the new South Kent Health and Dental Clinic will get underway soon, and its beginning will mark the end of a lengthy effort to consolidate two south-side Health Department clinics.

“It was a long road, but we got it done. It’s going to be a really good thing,” said Commissioner Dick Vander Molen.

The county will spend up to $2.16 million to convert the former Kentwood Library at 4700 Kalamazoo Ave. SE into the newest clinic in the Health Department’s system. The building offers 16,000 square feet of space and sits on 6.5 acres of land, which provides plenty of room for potential expansion in the future.

County Facilities Director Al Jano estimated the conversion will take about nine months to complete, and almost all of the work involves adapting the interior for its new intended use.

County Assistant Administrator Wayman Britt, who led the consolidation effort, said the county has taken possession of the building, so the renovation can begin. The county bought the vacant structure from the city of Kentwood for $300,000. The city initially listed the building for $900,000.

“They’ve been very supportive of this in our process,” said Commissioner Harold Mast regarding the Kentwood City Commission.

The consolidation plan involves merging the Kentwood Clinic at 1620 44th St. SE and the Wyoming Clinic at 852 47th St. SW into the recently acquired building. The county has been leasing both of those clinic sites, and consolidating the two under a single roof is expected to save the county an estimated $131,700 a year. The savings will come from not having lease payments and from a salary reduction, as fewer employees will be needed at the single location.

But the real key behind the consolidation is the new South Kent Clinic will offer dental services, a first for the county’s system. Michigan Community Dental Clinics, a nonprofit provider, has agreed to a 20-year lease for 5,000 square feet of space in the building and will begin operations with three dental chairs.

“This fills a need that is critical to our community. I’m pleased that we were able to get it to this point,” said Vander Molen.

MCDC has 22 locations across Michigan with the nearest being in Big Rapids and Mt. Pleasant. The firm’s CEO, Tom Veryser, said there are 58 dentists on staff. MCDC offers its patients full dental services including orthodontics.

Veryser earlier told commissioners that he will easily be able to staff the county’s newest clinic.

“Our model encourages dentists to seek a public-health career. This should be an easy one to staff. I don’t see a problem,” he said.

The county has used multiple revenue sources to buy and renovate the building in order to reach the total that was needed. It will withdraw $431,250 from its capital improvement fund and up to another $395,500 from the fund’s reserve account.

The county will also pull $1.2 million of general operating monies that was transferred into the Lodging Excise Tax account from that fund for the project.

“For one year, we can probably get by without that,” said Daryl Delabbio, county administrator and controller.

Private donations to the project came to $567,500.

The consolidation will leave the Health Department with four clinics to operate. Two are in Grand Rapids at 700 Fuller Ave. NE and 121 Franklin St. SW. A third is in Rockford at 4388 14 Mile Road. NE, and the fourth will be at the Kentwood location.

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