Arkansas Department of Health Considers $ 113 Million Administrative Staff Update Proposals

The Arkansas Department of Health has begun the process of proposing an update and expansion of $ 113 million to its current administrative headquarters in Little Rock, built in the 196s.

Staff members are reviewing the design firm’s proposals submitted during the application for qualifications, said Don Adams, deputy director of the administration department.

“We have to go through certain procedures with the construction authorities,” Adams said on Wednesday. “We have a state architect and we need to keep them informed. I hope to complete the process of selecting a design company in a few months.”

It may take another year or more before work on the detailed project is completed and the department may request construction bids. The department forecasts the completion of the project by the end of the summer of 2027.

A feasibility study completed in June 2021 by Polk, Stanley, Wilcox and Stokes Mann presented seven options, ranging from demolition and restoration to the preservation of all buildings, while adding three floors to the 1977 structure.

The department decided on an option that included adding three new floors, demolishing some structures and renovating the original h-shaped building, and adding a 1977 addition.

A 2016 evaluation by the Arkansas Building Administration, now a division of the Department of Transformation and Shared Services, found that although well maintained, significant investment is needed in the complex to modernize and properly maintain the building, Adams said during at a health meeting in May.

Adams said the department plans to increase the size of the plant complex by about 40 percent, from 266,422 square feet to 371,499 square feet.

He said the department has about 2,000 employees, 800 of whom work at Little Rock’s headquarters.

The expansion will allow the department to relocate the 200 employees currently working at the Freeway Medical Tower in Little Rock to headquarters and then sell or rent 64,000 square feet of space in the tower.

About 100 board members and department commissions working in rented space elsewhere could also be relocated to the expanded headquarters, he said.

A parking option will increase the project to about $ 150 million.

The department will use several sources of revenue to cover the down payment and the cost of the forecast, Adams said.

This includes a fee for vital documents, which was once used in combination with payments on bonds to pay for the public health laboratory facility built in 2005.

The department has received approval to move fees for vital documents to the State Department of Health’s buildings fund, according to Daniel McNeill, a spokesman for the department.

There are about $ 10 million in this fund and it produces about $ 2.7 million a year.

Adams said other funds would come from indirect funds such as federal, non-federal and cost allocations.

“We have indirect fees,” Adams said. “We deliberately did not spend as much as we received.

This includes allocating funds to grants that fall into administrative needs, he said.

The department estimates that together the funds could generate an additional $ 2.2 million a year to pay for the building. An additional $ 9 million will be used for the down payment.

Operating costs are not part of the $ 113 million estimate for the project, Adams said. However, he said increasing the efficiency of the current facility should offset those costs.

“Our building is more than 50 years old and has a lot of maintenance,” Adams said. “This is not an efficient building. We feel confident that support and maintenance [of a new building] it will be less than the current one. “

Adams said the building uses an outdated boiler system that requires a 24-hour on-site boiler operator.

Building updates do not require a boiler operator.

Obsolete cooling towers and cooling systems also use more energy, he said.

The renovation of the building will repair the insulation, windows and lighting.

Relocating staff to a campus will also be more efficient, Adams said.

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