Havre Daily News
The Hill County Courthouse Annex building's main tenant is moving this month and the future of the building is uncertain. The county hopes it will be home to a federally funded health clinic, but for the foreseeable future much of the building will remain empty.
The Hill County Public Assistance Office, a state-run office that administrates Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the food stamp program will move to the Ryan Building on First Street. That building also houses Serv-Ur-Self Furniture.
TLC, a regional drug and alcohol prevention program, will remain open in south end of the annex.
The public assistance office will move July 18-19, office supervisor Shirley Briese said. The office will be closed July 18 and, if possible, may open July 19 at the new location, she said.
Public assistance decided to move its office after hearing last year from the Hill County commissioners that the county might need the building, Briese said.
"They had indicated to us that the County Health (Department) was just outgrowing their space ... and that they had submitted for some grants and a long-range goal was a clinic," Briese said.
The Health Department is in the process of applying to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration to have Hill County designated a medically underserved area, a prerequisite to qualify for a federal grant for a community health clinic. The county failed to get the designation or a grant last year when it applied.
Hill County Commissioner Kathy Bessette said she is hopeful about the county's chances of receiving a federal grant for a health clinic this time because of help they are receiving from the state's congressional delegation.
The county is also looking at other grants that could help pay for the clinic.
"It kind of looks like it could be a medical facility," Bessette said during a tour of the annex last week.
The commissioners have said that if the county receives a grant for a clinic, the Health Department would be moved to the clinic location. The annex is one of a few locations being considered for the clinic.
County building manager Rich Ricci said the annex was originally intended to house the Health Department when the county purchased the building in 1984.
Public assistance and family services, run at that time by the county, moved into the building when it was purchased, Commissioner Doug Kaercher said. The state took over those programs about five years ago, he said.
The county ran out of funds to also move the Health Department, which is in the basement of the Hill County Courthouse, Ricci said.
The county uses the basement of the annex building for storage and for the Havre-Hill County Historic Preservation Commission office.
The loss of the tenant will mean building expenses will outpace revenue, Kaercher said.
The Office of Public Assistance and TANF were paying Hill County $29,536 annually for space in the annex and will pay $40,551 for space in the Ryan Building, said Garett Bacon, an administrator for the state Department of Public Health and Human Services.
The Ryan Building is already wired to support the state computer system and the move makes it possible for the area's state offices to come together, Briese said. It already houses several state agencies.