By Hugh Fisher, Salisbury Post
KANNAPOLIS — With applause and emotion, the new Cabarrus Health Alliance building was dedicated as the Fletcher L. Hartsell Jr. Health Center at a midmorning ceremony Friday.
Numerous elected officials and health professionals joined staff to dedicate the 61,000-square-foot facility at 300 Mooresville Road, which opened Monday.
The honor went to Hartsell for his longstanding support for the construction of a public health facility at the N.C. Research Campus.
Hartsell, an 11-term Republican state senator representing Cabarrus and Iredell in District 36, was almost speechless after.
“I’m honored,” Hartsell said. “This was truly unexpected.”
Dr. William Roper, dean of the UNC School of Medicine, was the morning’s master of ceremonies.
He said Hartsell’s tireless advocacy in Raleigh had made the new facility possible.
“As we grow, our health challenges will be even more daunting,” Roper said.
“By working together to improve access to public health services, we can deal with these challenges … and show the rest of the nation a pattern for how to do these things,” Roper said.
Kannapolis Mayor Bob Misenheimer also thanked Hartsell for his dedication. He also read a letter from Sen. Kay Hagan, addressed to Hartsell, thanking him for his work.
Following the remarks and unveiling, Hartsell was presented with a framed picture of the building.
Roper also praised Cabarrus Health Alliance CEO Fred Pilkington’s leadership, and the crowd honored him with a standing ovation.
Inside, Pilkington led dignitaries through the exam rooms, office spaces and educational facilities.
The brand-new building will house the county’s health department and is designed to be flexible and environmentally friendly, he said.
Pilkington showed a tour group a number of his favorite features, from large windows letting in natural light, to workstations designed to allow teams of professionals to work together.
Also included: touchscreen check-in kiosks in waiting areas, tablet computer interfaces for doctors and a teaching kitchen for demonstration classes.
“If it’s new, we’ve got it,” Pilkington said.
A new dental clinic, he said, “will serve children from 16 counties,” due to a shortage of facilities in surrounding areas.
Among other facts, he said that the Cabarrus Health Alliance sees some 19,000 patient visits per year and is involved in delivering about 20 percent of the babies in the county each year.
Those involved in making the building happen praised the project.
One of those, Cabarrus County Commissioner Bob Carruth, said the new building was “huge” for Kannapolis, the Research Campus and the county as a whole.
“It’s about the total change and transition of this town, looking forward,” Carruth said.
In exchange for participation in a $35 million financing plan for improvements related to the Research Campus, commissioners asked the city for $13.5 million to fund the new health facility.
Now that the building is a reality, Carruth said he was proud of Kannapolis and that partnership.
One staff member who works there, Megan Poole, said the new building has already made work easier.
Poole, who holds a grant-funded position with CHA as a teen tobacco prevention coordinator, started in the new building Monday after spending the weekend moving in.
“It makes it more efficient for the staff to work with the community, to provide health care to the public,” Poole said.
Tammie Harkey, CHA finance director and project director for the new facility, said she felt “truly blessed” to be a part of the project.
“I think what I’m most impressed with is what we’ve been able to do with the clinical services,” she said.
“We’re able to offer more exam rooms and a healthier environment.
She said people who were familiar with the former health department — a former Kmart store on Cannon Boulevard — would notice a change.
“It’s more comfortable,” she said.
Pilkington said he hopes the public as a whole will be drawn to the new facility.
He said an array of classes and programs are already planned, including healthful cooking classes, so that the community can get involved.
The Cabarrus Health Alliance will have an open house from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
Cooking demonstrations and tours will be offered.
More information is available online at www.cabarrushealth.org .
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.