By Conrad Dudderar
EL RENO – Property in central Canadian County that formerly housed a large oil and gas plant will become the county’s new health department site.
Canadian County Commissioners on June 27 approved spending $6 million in federal stimulus aid to purchase property at 6100 E Highway 66 for a “future Canadian County Health Department location.”
The acquisition includes a 32,000-square foot building on 10 acres in El Reno city limits, on the south side of Highway 66 just west of Canadian Valley Technology Center.
“This is going to be a way to make public health services more accessible to all citizens in Canadian County,” Canadian County Commission Chairman Dave Anderson said.
“For too long, county health departments have been seen as a place for people with no other resources.”
Anderson wants Canadian County citizens to visit their local health department for “everyday” health-related services – such as the CDL driver who needs a medical exam or the child who needs a shot for poison ivy.
Canadian County now owns buildings in Yukon (1023 E Vandament) and El Reno (100 S Rock Island) that house CCHD clinics and offices.
“This location is easier to access,” Anderson noted.
American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) federal stimulus funds awarded to Canadian County last year will cover the $6 million purchase price. The seller is OKC West Industrial Park LLC.
“We’re trying to close quickly,” Chairman Anderson said after county commissioners’ approval at their weekly meeting. “(Tuesday) was our goal to get closed.”
The Highway 66 site had been Halliburton’s El Reno plant for several years until December 2019, when the company relocated most of the operations to its Duncan field plant.
Halliburton had announced mass layoffs due to a slowdown in oil and gas production in central Oklahoma. It then sold the El Reno property, which was later divided into separate parcels.
Canadian County Commissioners have been working with the CCHD leadership team on finding a new, larger site to meet the needs of a growing population.
“We’re thankful for the support,” CCJD Interim Regional Director Maggie Jackson told commissioners June 27. “We’re really excited about the future.
“We served over 60,000 clients last year during COVID, so we feel this facility is going to better equip us for responding in the future.”
In August 2021, CCHD officials formally asked Canadian County Commissioners to use part of the county’s $28.8 million ARPA award to upgrade county health department facilities.
“I appreciate you guys working with us on the vision that you have for how to best serve our county,” Chairman Anderson told the CCHD leadership team. “We agree construction is so volatile right now. Acquiring this property really does make sense.
“I know we’ll be in a lot of discussions in the near future about modifications to the building that you’re moving in.”
The inside must be remodeled, officials said.
Having the county health department at 6100 E Highway 66 will “bring it a little bit more central between Yukon and El Reno,” District 3 County Commissioner Jack Stewart noted.
“And it is in the county seat (El Reno), which is a requirement. Once we get it fixed the way you guys want it, it will be a perfect building for the entire county.”
The ARPA of 2021 is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill designed to speed up the United States’ recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and an ongoing recession.
One of the categories that Canadian County may expend ARPA funds is to respond to public health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and to be prepared for any future pandemics.
Canadian County Commissioners have been “very deliberate” in considering requests to distribute the county’s ARPA dollars, according to District 1 Commissioner Marc Hader.
“This (from CCHD) was the very first request we had of any kind,” Hader said. “This was the primary reason that ARPA funds were doled out … this is to help our health department have a first-class facility.”
Hader called this a “partnership” between Canadian County and the health department.
“This is an absolutely good and proper use of ARPA funds for what their intended purposes were – to help serve our citizens with their health needs, especially in relation to COVID and ongoing concerns about epidemics.”
The CCHD has saved about $3 million for renovations to the building, Anderson said during a Tuesday county budget meeting.