PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Almost four years after Katrina, a bigger and better health department is coming to Jackson County. Wednesday's foundation pouring ceremony marked the start of construction to replace the 50-year-old building Katrina clobbered.
Seeing officials pour concrete is not the usual way to kick off construction. County and state leaders didn't mind getting their hands dirty for the new Health Department Project.
"A health department is a pretty important thing," Mississippi Development Authority Spokesman Lee Youngblood said. "This is the kind of facility that you need to survive a hurricane, and this is the kind of facility that you need to have ready in the event of an emergency."
The nearly $5 million health department is going up on Vega Street in Pascagoula. It will replace the one Katrina destroyed and get employees out of trailers.
"It is not a comfortable situation, but I can say thanks to our health department staff," County Supervisor Melton Harris said. "They have continued to provide medical healthcare."
There will be 23 exam rooms in the 24,000 square foot building, which will be more storm resistant and have an added emergency shelter. Dr. Bob Travnicek is with the state health department and said the modern look will match many other facilities that were recently built along the coast.
"We now realize we need to have showers, we need to have emergency energy, we have to have sheltering, we have to be able to survive either a category five and or some sort of attack from the outside world," Travnicek said about the future facility.
Dr. Travnicek also points out that the number of patients visiting the office is not at pre-Katrina levels, but believes more people will come to the new building for help.
"That activity will continue and the staff will be grinding their work out. It is family planning, some maternity and child health immunizations. A whole range of public health is carried on at this department."
County officials expect the new health department building to be finished next summer.