Ashland County officials line up and cut a ceremonial ribbon to celebrate the opening of the new Ashland County Health Department on Claremont Avenue. Credit: Dillon Carr

ASHLAND — City and county officials from Ashland congregated Tuesday to unveil the community’s newest government building on Claremont Avenue, the Ashland County Health Department.

Technically, it’s not a new building; the Ashland County Board of Commissioners spent a total of $2.4 million American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to pay for the renovation of the 11,000 square-foot structure that used to be a Rite Aid. 

Commissioners bought the vacant building at 1211 Claremont Ave. for $845,000 in March 2022, announcing their plans to move the health department and Emergency Management Agency (EMA) offices there.

However, officials scrapped plans to house the EMA in the building when they realized the agency’s security requirements couldn’t be met due to the layout of the long building. The agency instead moved into a smaller space in the county’s administrative building on Cottage Street.

The health department — along with the county’s EMA— was previously housed at the former county services building along State Route 60, which sold to the Ashland County-West Holmes Career Center for $500,000 following a shaky negotiation.

Health commissioner Vickie Taylor moved her and the department’s staff into the new building earlier this month. 

“Commissioners, thank you for this beautiful building,” Taylor said, moments before she cut a ceremonial ribbon to make everything official. 

“We are blessed to be here. And our goal is to use this facility and our van to serve this community the best we can,” she said, referencing a $230,000 mobile health clinic purchased to bring vaccinations to Amish and “isolated populations” across the county.

The health department parked the new mobile health clinic van outside the new building and offered visitors tours on Tuesday.

The van, a used 2022 Ford E450, is outfitted with a generator, two vaccination areas and an area for a clerk to process paperwork. Taylor said the health department will not make new hires and instead will use existing nursing staff.

What’s inside?

The inside of the renovated building has a new board room, a lunch area equipped with a kitchenette and tables and chairs for the employees, a nurse section and an environmental health section.

In the back of the building, there is 3,000 square-feet of additional space that will serve as storage and potential expansion in the future. 

“We always want to make sure we think of new construction in terms of the long term,” said Commissioner Denny Bittle, who has served as the county’s liaison with Simonson construction crews for the project.

Ashland Mayor Matt Miller thanked the commissioners for investing “a substantial amount” of ARPA dollars in the new facility. 

“This will serve us for generations,” he said. “And quite candidly, it’s the most professional health department space they have ever worked out of — since probably the beginning of Ashland County.”

Lead reporter for Ashland Source who happens to own more bikes than pairs of jeans. His coverage focuses on city and county government, and everything in between. He lives in Mansfield with his wife and...