By Erika Webb
Citizens of Deltona will soon have more health care options closer to home. Halifax Health plans to open a non-emergency, walk-in clinic in the city, and other medical services are on the horizon.
At an April 1 meeting, the Halifax Health Board of Commissioners and the Deltona City Commission entered into an interlocal working agreement to jointly determine and strive to meet the needs of Deltona residents.
"Today we treat many citizens of Deltona. We merely treat them in Daytona," Halifax Health president and CEO Jeff Feasel told the commission.
Mr. Feasel said the organization wants to bring the "many services that are provided by Halifax today ... at some distance to Deltona into the city limits."
He did not list all of the services Halifax will provide, but said treatment will not be limited to primary care; he named two that were music to the commissioners' ears -- obstetric-gynecological and pediatrics.
Pediatrics has long been on Commissioner Chris Nabicht's wish list.
"The most important service that we lack in the healthcare industry in this city is pediatric care," Commissioner Nabicht said. "With 87,000 people in a bedroom community, nine elementary schools including public and private, we have the largest juvenile population of anyplace in Volusia County. Your pediatric services will be very, very welcome."
Vice Mayor Zenaida Denizac said she was very surprised when she first campaigned, going door to door in 2005, at the two issues her potential constituents had on their minds.
"They wanted to know what are you going to do about health care in Deltona and what are you going to do about barking dogs, door after door," Vice Mayor Denizac said.
She asked Halifax representatives about their long-term goals.
"To work with you all to provide the services needed, but those services are at the top of our list, OB/GYN and peds," Mr. Feasel said.
Among the initial services Halifax plans to provide are those of family physicians and internal medicine, he said.
"We don't want to put any limits on it. This city is large enough to support any endeavor. We've been very successful in Port Orange (where) the ER serves over 35,000 patients in a given year," Mr. Feasel added.
Halifax is looking to purchase a 5,000-square-foot building, formerly Hollywood Video, at 2090 Saxon Blvd. for the walk-in clinic, according to Byron Cogdell, a public relations specialist for Halifax Health.
Vice Mayor Denizac asked for Halifax to consider expanding into the east side of Deltona, her district, because "it's a long drive" for residents there to any medical facility.
"That's a perfect example of (us) wanting to work with you, (looking) to you to guide and direct," Mr. Feasel responded.
The vice mayor may get her wish.
Mr. Cogdell confirmed the hospital is looking at four acres in east Deltona priced at around $1.5 million, and that the board has authorized hospital officials to negotiate to purchase 30 acres in north Deltona for an estimated $6 million.
Mayor Masiarczyk suggested a workshop to "bring in community leaders" and create a survey to further ascertain needs.
"It's incumbent upon us as a community to really get that feedback, maybe through a mail-out with utility bills," the mayor said.
Commissioner Nancy Schleicher echoed the sentiments of her fellow commissioners.
"When you said OB/GYN and pediatric you couldn't have said two words that are more necessary than anything you could have mentioned," she said.
But she did have one question.
"Do we have to at all work with the Halifax taxing authority or is that strictly an east side, separate from the hospital?"
Mr. Feasel assured the commission Halifax Health and its taxing district are one entity, "not separate from the hospital organization like West Volusia." which he said "used to own and operate hospitals but they gave them away."
"The taxes of the Halifax taxing district would not apply to the services in West Volusia," Mr. Feasel added. "The two shall not cross, so to speak."
He said the West Volusia Hospital Authority may choose to pay for OB/ GYN services for individuals in the area who need (but can't afford) care but tax dollars will not cross district lines.
Other dollars will, he predicted.
"Halifax periodically has an economic impact study done by the University of Central Florida, as I'm sure the city of Deltona does," Mr. Feasel said. "Halifax and the $500 plus million dollar a year budget that we have ... through that dollar being spent multiple times in the community, makes up approximately 10 percent of the economic engine in Volusia County and we look forward to extending that engine to the city of Deltona.
"That dollar does get spent two to three sometimes more than that and it's good for everyone," he added.
Commissioner Webster Barnaby assured Halifax representatives the commission is ready to expedite the process.
"We want to make sure it's full pedal to the metal," Commissioner Barnaby said. "We're gonna lower the speed bumps so that you go for it."
And recognizing the potential economic appeal for other businesses to start-up or relocate on the heels of Halifax, Commissioner Barnaby added, "We appreciate you guys being the lead dogs and just tell the rest of the big boys over there to come on over, like the mayor says, we're open for business."
In other business the commission discussed the possible sale of Dupont Lakes Park at 2711 Elkcam Blvd. They agreed a real estate appraisal of the property and a determination of what it will cost to relocate the park's facilities are necessary before moving forward.
But they don't want to dally.
The park is situated on 12 acres in the heart of a desirable commercial district.
"We are very limited in terms of the land we have available to develop economically, commercially," Vice Mayor Denizac said. "This is a prime piece of property."
Mayor Masiarczyk said he just wants to know what the city is giving up and what it will cost to replace it.
"We have the land, and that's a big expense, and we can put ball fields in fairly reasonably in other sites," Mayor Masiarczyk said.
Fire Station 63, which sits adjacent to the park along Howland Boulevard, is being considered for inclusion in the potential sale, but Commissioner Nabicht suggested having the appraisal broken down to determine separately the property values of the park and the fire station, which is at the southeast corner of the park.
"There is access (from the park) to Howland Boulevard without touching the fire station," he said referring to a driveway that runs between Wendy's and Amscot along Howland.
Commissioner Nabicht pointed out time and costs associated with recent additions to the existing station and said, "There's a lot that goes into relocating a fire station."
He said, with relocation, factors including response time zones must be taken into consideration.
"It's got to be in the right spot so that could cost us more money," he added.
Then there's the matter of the cell tower.
"The other component, why I would tend to shy away from including the fire station property that we didn't talk about at the meeting, there is a cell tower on the fire station property and there are two or three providers that are n it," Commissioner Nabicht said in a phone interview. "It creates another issue ... to relocate that cell tower."