Wicomico Eyes Temporary Home For Health Department

SALISBURY – Officials in Wicomico County are looking to lease office space for the health department while its facility undergoes an investigative project.

On Tuesday, county staff came before the Wicomico County Council in an open work session to present a potential lease agreement between the Wicomico County Health Department and E.S. Adkins LLC.

The county plans to rent five office units at a complex on North Salisbury Boulevard while the basement of the health department’s Seth H. Hurdle building – located in downtown Salisbury – undergoes demolition to investigate hydrostatic pressure issues.

“You have water pressing up on the slab in the basement and it’s buckling that slab,” said Wayne Strausburg, the county’s director of administration. “Throughout that lower level you have trip hazards, and it’s a situation we can’t continue with.”

In this year’s operating budget, Strausburg said the county allotted $75,000 to rent office space that would accommodate health department employees who would be displaced by the demolition. He said the E.S. Adkins building would provide the county with adequate space and flexible leasing options.

“The space provided is adequate and in near move-in condition …,” he said. “In this fiscal year, if we move expeditiously, we’ll spend $60,000, so we’ll be coming in under budget.”

Councilman Marc Kilmer asked if the building had enough parking to accommodate the employees.

“Is the parking space adequate there?” he said.

Strausburg noted that the complex would provide enough parking for the 30 employees who would be moving into the office units.

“It’s adequate and it’s free,” he said, adding that the county currently pays $40 a month for each health department employee to park in the downtown parking garage. “There’s some savings there.”

However, Council President John Cannon pointed out additional expenses at the E.S. Adkins building. With monthly rent and common area maintenance charges, he said the county would incur nearly $118,000 in total expenses this fiscal year.

“That’s almost a 25 percent increase in the operating budget from the 2017-2018 year …,” he said. “I wonder how long we can sustain that.”

Strausburg told the council it remains unknown how long the health department would need the occupy the office complex, but estimated it would take two or three years to investigate the hydrostatic pressure problems.

“We have to understand what is causing the hydrostatic pressure and then determine whether or not there’s a way to offload that hydrostatic pressure,” he said.

Strausburg noted that the building was built on a dry lake bed and that additional factors, such as higher tides and the vertical load of a two-story addition at the Hurdle building, could have contributed to floor buckling in the basement.

Strausburg added that the county plans to spend $165,000 in the current fiscal year to do an internal investigation of the basement.

“Our choices are we find out what’s going on down there and figure out how and if it can be remedied, or we simply vacate the space,” he said. “But if you ever wanted to sell the building at some point, you have an infirmity there.”

John McClellan of SVN Miller Commercial Real Estate agreed.

“From a real estate perspective, if you did vacate the building today every buyer in the world will want to know the answer to the questions you are about to find out …,” he said.

Strausburg said a public hearing on the proposed lease agreement will be held on Oct. 2.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.