Access Carroll Waits for County to Decide Fate of Wheeler Building
Access Carroll's expansion plans are on hold until the county decides what it will do with the Wheeler Building, a property that Access Carroll has been preparing to occupy for more than a year.
Expansion plans for Access Carroll--a Westminster organization that provides free healthcare to low-income families in Carroll County-- have been stalled by the Board of Commissioners, which is debating the fate of a vacant, county-owned building previously promised to the medical center.
Access Carroll, a nonprofit organization, has been preparing for the past year to expand into the county-owned Wheeler Building, where the group expects to be able to increase the number of patients it serves from 7,000 to 10,000. But the plans are now on hold.
In 2009, Access Carroll signed a 25-year lease with the county to occupy the building at 112 Railroad Ave. in Westminster. But that agreement came under the previous board of commissioners. In February, a newly elected board decided to reconsider the plan.
Tammy Black, executive director of Access Carroll, said the group has outgrown its location at 2 Locust Lane. When this process started last spring, Black said she hoped to be in the new facility this summer.
According to Black, Access Carroll has received two major grants to help prepare the Wheeler Building for occupancy. The Maryland Hospital Association awarded Access Carroll, through the Carroll Hospital Center, a $700,000 matching grant, and the state awarded a $404,500 Community Development Block Grant to the group as well. Access Carroll has also raised private funds but is seeking more funding to meet the project's goal of $1.6 million.
Several weeks ago, the county entered discussions with the city of Westminster to explore the possibility of the city purchasing the Wheeler building. There was speculation the city might consider moving several of its administrative offices, including City Hall, to the building. But within the past week, Westminster Mayor Kevin Utz said that discussion had ended, with the city being unable to afford the price put forth by the county.
“The sales price and estimated cost to make the property functional is more than the city can afford at this time,” Utz said. “At this time all discussions have ended.”
Access Carroll, the only free medical clinic in the county, provides primary health care, acute and chronic medication assistance, diagnostic testing, referrals, patient education and community resource information, according to its web site, www.accesscarroll.org.
Board of Commissioners President Doug Howard, R-District 5, said in a February Carroll County Times article that the board is looking at a variety of options for the building, including leasing the space to other agencies, selling it but letting Access Carroll remain in the space or selling the building and moving Access Carroll to another facility.
"We are optimistic that we won't lose our grant funding provided we move forward with a renovation project this year. Our funders are very much in support of the (expansion) project itself which is not location dependent like we initially thought," Black said. "But we need to be diligent in communicating and following a timeline and process that we're bound to."
"We are still waiting to hear about our location and we are hopeful that the commissioners will make a decision very, very soon," Black said.