Health Department destined for West End Plaza, county commissioner says

Published 8:09 pm Tuesday, February 8, 2022

SALISBURY — A study to assess space needs of the Rowan County Health Department is ongoing, but the future home for the department seemingly has been decided.

County leaders previously pointed to West End Plaza as a possible destination for the cramped department. Commissioner Judy Klusman confirmed those plans during the Board of Health meeting on Tuesday night when she said that is “definitely” the case.

“We know where it’s going to go,” said Klusman, also a member of the Board of Health.

Klusman said the county is targeting the far end of the former mall, opposite of where the Belk department store was once located. Klusman said the mass COVID-19 testing and vaccination clinics held at West End Plaza “cemented” it as the department’s destination.

“That’s what sold everybody on going to the (West End Plaza) there,” Klusman said.

With the help of community volunteers, the Health Department hosted mass vaccine clinics in early 2021 at West End Plaza when the COVID-19 vaccine was only starting to be distributed. The drive-thru clinics were initially plagued by long wait times, but changes to logistics helped make the events more efficient, with hundreds of cars filtering through in a matter of hours.

A comprehensive study conducted in 2015 showed the Health Department was in need of more space, and that was before a global pandemic caused the department to bolster both its staff and services. Most of the department is located at 1811 E. Innes St. next to the Department of Social Services, but the Environmental Health division is located separately in an office in downtown Salisbury.

The Board of Commissioners in the fall ordered a space study to be completed by ADW Architects. The Charlotte-based firm is working to design the new agricultural center and meeting hall being planned for a portion of West End Plaza.

Phillip Steele, senior principal at ADW Architects, told the Board of Health representatives from the firm toured the Health Department’s footprint last week. Steele and his team will continue to gather data to determine exactly how many square feet each of the department’s seven divisions will need.

Steele said it would be a “win-win” to have the Health Department at West End Plaza. The “synergy” created by having the Health Department share the same site as the agricultural center was one reason why the location makes sense, Steele said.

“There’s a lot of similarities that can be overlapped with flexibility of space between the two different departments,” Steele said. “I think the commissioners really like the idea of having it over there.”

There will also be plenty of available parking because it was once a commercial center, Steele said. Parking at the Health Department’s current location is at a premium during operating hours.

Steele said the first draft of the space study should be finished by the end of February. Then, the firm will update the Board of Commissioners on its progress. Steele will join the Board of Health to provide another update on the study when it convenes in March.

In other meeting business:

• The Environmental Health division’s backlog of wastewater inspections is one week and three days, a significant decrease from the multi-week backlog seen as recently as fall of 2020. The inspections are a critical step in the development of new homes that require septic tanks. The division was suffering from under-staffing at the time, but it has remedied the problem.

“On behalf of everybody, we are delighted with the job you and your team are doing,” Board of Health Chair Dari Caldwell said to Adrian Pruett, the county’s Environmental Health manager.

• The Health Department received $40,000 in grant funding for its dental clinic, with $35,000 coming from the Office of Rural Health and $5,000 from Delta Dental. The department has applied for another grant that would be used to get its mobile dental van operational to bring its dental services to the community.

About Ben Stansell

Ben Stansell covers business, county government and more for the Salisbury Post. He joined the staff in August 2020 after graduating from the University of Alabama. Email him at

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