Lee health clinic will get built — one year late

By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff
Posted Jan. 30, 2013, at 6:22 p.m.

LEE, Maine — The construction of a $500,000 clinic that would serve residents in the Lee area will be delayed almost a year by a dispute between Lincoln-area education leaders and Health Access Network of Lincoln, officials said Wednesday.

Federal officials told Health Access Network Chief Executive Officer Bill Diggins on Monday that the health care center would finally get about $500,000 in federal grant money to build a satellite clinic at Lee Academy.

Federal officials changed grant conditions to allow Lee Academy to get it without the participation of RSU 67. In its original form, the grant would have allocated about $53,000 to RSU 67 for a health clinic that serves students at Mattanawcook Academy, officials said.

Lee Academy Headmaster Bruce Lindberg and Diggins criticized RSU 67 leaders recently for causing several months’ delay in the project’s construction. School board members, meanwhile, criticized Health Access officials for what they said were failures to relate key elements of the grant.

Lindberg announced the construction project in July and said it would finish in September. As part of the new plan formulated since Monday, clinic construction will begin in April and finish in September 2013, Lindberg said.

Lindberg called the delay “irritating.”

“The biggest thing is that we have a building on-campus that isn’t being used because we started demolition and had to cease,” Lindberg said. “The big thing is just the delay. Our school is excited about having a new facility that is serving the needs of Lee and the surrounding community and also our students. That delay is an irritating fact for us.”

Diggins said RSU 67 officials made and reversed decisions several times within the last several months before finally opting out of the grant.

RSU 67 school board members who spoke about the issue during a Jan. 2 meeting said HAN officials didn’t tell them that HAN and Lee Academy would get so much more money than would RSU 67. School board members said they weren’t aware of Lee Academy’s involvement in the grant until very recently.

Health Access folded another $400,000 grant into its application for the construction grant, board members said. Board members said they were adamant that they did not want what member John Trask called “a federal lease where they [federal officials] could put a dental clinic or a zumba studio” within the clinic area of Mattanawcook Academy.

“It’s just bad business,” one board member said. Other board members said the $53,000 renovation grant was unnecessary.

Lindberg said he found the federal lease argument difficult to understand.

“I don’t think it is a concern. Their portion of the grant is an insignificant number [$53,000] and the federal government will not be concerned about such a small amount,” Lindberg said.

Diggins admitted that HAN had failed to communicate with the Lincoln school system a few years ago, before he became CEO, causing both sides to fail to get a $60,000 grant.

RSU 67 school officials “have verbally told me that my predecessor and her staff had done a terrible job of keeping RSU 67 informed, and I accept that. But I expect everybody to pull in the same direction regarding the provision of health care in our community,” Diggins said.

Diggins started as Health Access’ CEO in November 2011, he said.

The Lee town office adjoining the Lee Academy campus will continue to act as a temporary clinic site until the new clinic is built, Lindberg said.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/01/30/news/penobscot/secured-grant-means-lee-clinic-will-get-built-one-year-late/ printed on July 22, 2014