Edwards County may soon be getting a new health office.

And the taxpayers won’t even have to foot the bill.

The Edwards County Medical Association expressed its intention to build a new county health office to the Edwards County Board of Commissioners during the commission’s February regular session Monday morning. The ECMA made a brief presentation in an effort to gauge interest from the county regarding the project.

“What we are here today to ask is if the county would be interested in continuing to pay the same amount of rent…and continue to pay utilities if we funded the construction of a brand new health office,” said Erin Fenton, President of the Edwards County Medical Association.

At least one member of the county board was quick to verbally express approval of the project.

“That sounds like a no-brainer,” said Davis Messman, Chairman of the Edwards County Board of Commissioners.

The ECMA representatives, which also included Treasurer George Gerlach and founding member Marty Jordan, gave the county board a brief history of their organization.

“It’s a group a lot of people are not familiar with,” said Fenton. “You don’t hear a lot about us.”

Fenton noted that the ECMA was formed in the early 1980s with the goal of bringing a doctor to the Village of West Salem following the retirement of Dr. Andrew Krajec.

“They started from scratch,” she explained. ”It’s hard to imagine that endeavor today.”

The Medical Association was able to build what is now the West Salem Medical Clinic and attract Dr. Harry Garrett from the state of Oklahoma to serve the West Salem community for the past 35 years. They sold the clinic to Richland Memorial Hospital in 2018.

Fenton also explained that the ECMA built the ambulance barn leased by the county in West Salem in 2005–06, funding an addition for a second ambulance bay to the building in 2015. The county pays $1 per year over five-year periods to the Medical Association to use the facility.

“That was built to serve as a base for the northern part of the county for the ambulance,” said Fenton.

Now the Medical Association is seeking out a new project regarding health services within the county.

“The only property we own currently is the ambulance building,” she said. “After the sale of the clinic, our group began looking for other projects, basically.

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