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Possible Free Clinic Site Is Questioned

FARMVILLE – The concept of a “free clinic” was praised during Town Council's work session last week but some council members wondered if one possible location-the former Daily Grind space at the corner of Third and Main-is an ideal location.

Zoning questions were also raised.

The former coffee shop has been mentioned as a possible location for the proposed Heart of Virginia Free Clinic, as reported on the front page of the April 1 edition of The Farmville Herald.

A free clinic, according to those hoping to create and locate such a facility in Farmville, would aim to provide medical care to those ages 19 to 64, working or between jobs, who don't have medical insurance. It would not serve those who are on Medicaid or Medicare, offer OB services, nor offer emergency room services, or treat children.

Town Manager Gerald Spates told council members during last week's work session that he has heard concerns about the possibility of a free clinic in the former coffee house space.

The town manager said some have told him they believe that “downtown should be more of a retail and professional office setting.”

Town council member, and Main Street businessman, Tommy Pairet also said he had heard concerns expressed regarding the possible location, as did other council members.

“Parking is a big concern that I've heard,” said council member David E. Whitus. “And some of the merchants downtown are really concerned about parking and what kind of traffic it's going to generate…It's going to be a hot topic.”

Council member Sally Thompson stressed her support for a free clinic in the community, as did other council members. “It's a good idea I'm not against a public clinic,” she said. “I am concerned about the location.”

Pairet had concerns that the highly visible location of Third and Main, arguably the town's busiest intersection, might be too “conspicuous for people who want to be private about what they're doing.”

And Ms. Thompson wondered “when you're promoting a town do you want this in the middle of the town?”

In The Herald's April 1 story, Rev. Sylvia Meadows, president of the Heart of Virginia Free Clinic, explained the impetus to establish the clinic.

“We're called to work together as a family, as the Body of Christ,” said the minister of Farmville United Methodist Church. “And I think that…for most of us it is a call from God…To reach out to the greatest needs in one's community is the purpose and mission of the Church…What's driving us is that we believe that it's what God would have us do.”

With the state of the economy-the worst since the Great Depression-many are working as hard as they can, Rev. Meadows noted, but because of their salaries or because they don't have health insurance through their employment, they cannot receive “what we consider…a basic human need.”

During last week's work session, Town Council member Dr. Edward I. Gordon said the free clinic “sounds great but I think the details need to come out. Other places (free clinics in other communities) are thriving and it's been terrific. I know people from here who have traveled to free clinics in other areas and it's a lifesaver for them. So the concept is a great idea.”

Yes, Ms. Thompson agreed, “the concept is excellent. We need a free clinic.”

“I agree,” Dr. Gordon replied.

“Is this the right location?” Ms. Thompson again asked.

“I think,” Dr. Gordon said, “we need to find out a little more.”

The town manager also raised the issue of zoning, telling council members “I don't think it's zoned for it, which is going to be an issue. It allows a veterinary hospital with a conditional use permit…” he said of the B-1 business zone.

“Is it zoned for that use?” asked Whitus.

“Not really," Spates replied. “…It would have to come to council for a conditional use (permit). I think the biggest issue you're going to run into is parking.”

Spates said “what my main concern's going to be is parking. I know we're building that new lot (at the new farmer's market on North Street) but people have a tendency, they're going to find a (parking) place wherever, and then you're going to start getting all the businesses complaining because they're taking up all their parking.”

The Daily Grind was an outreach of New Life Assembly of God Church, whose minister, Rev. Frank Potter, observed to The Herald in the April 1 edition that he was “pretty sure” the Heart of Virginia Free Clinic wants the former coffee shop space for the free clinic.

“There's nothing in writing yet…It's more at the talking stage, but…everybody involved with the free clinic just absolutely loves the idea of it…being in there.”

Calling the location “very visible,” Rev. Meadows told The Herald that the building “is very nice…There's not a lot to be done to the facility to make it appropriate…

“…And I guess I'm excited, too, that folks might,” she said, “be generous enough to offer it.”