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City has new plan for proposed Satcher Institute

David Satcher

Dr. David Satcher is shown at an event in Hobson City in August 2019. Anniston city officials want to fund a medical clinic named for Dr. Satcher, a former resident who has served as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and as U.S. Surgeon General.

Anniston city leaders have a new plan for the city’s proposed David Satcher Institute, paring the project back from a multi-million-dollar complex on the old Chalk Line factory site to a Glen Addie medical clinic that would cost roughly $1 million.

“It’s going to be a health clinic for the underserved and the uninsured,” said Mayor Jack Draper.

The new plan came to light in a work session before the Anniston City Council’s regular meeting Tuesday, as council members discussed how to spend the $13 million in federal aid the city expects to get from the American Rescue Act, the latest federal pandemic aid bill.

Long before the pandemic, local leaders were at work on a plan to build some sort of institution to honor David Satcher, who grew up in Anniston and went on to become U.S. surgeon general in the 1990s. Early proponents of the plan even had a site in mind: the field north of the Department of Human Resources building on 11th Street, once home to the Chalk Line textile mill.

Council members supported the initial proposal, which would have created a clinic in Satcher’s name and possibly a museum to educate people about issues of health and civil rights, including Anniston’s history of industrial pollution. In fact, the council set aside hundreds of thousands in city and federal grant money for the project.

The plan, though, kept growing. At one point in 2019, then-Councilman Ben Little advocated for additional facilities such as a lecture hall, a DNA testing lab and a senior center. The price tag for that plan was $18.9 million.

Little lost re-election in 2020. Draper said city leaders talked to Satcher as late as last week, and agreed to move forward with a plan for a health clinic at the old Glen Addie community center. In 2019, the council had considered turning the unused community center into a warming center for homeless people.

The Satcher project would get $750,000 in Rescue Act money under an initial plan proposed by city staff Tuesday, but that figure is far from certain. Draper said he hopes to bring the Rescue Act spending plan up for a vote in July. The $750,000 in federal funds would likely push the projects above the $1.2 million or $1.3 million in funding it needs, Draper said.

Draper said the Glen Addie site would keep the institute from duplicating the services of other, similar clinics, such as the St. Michael’s clinic closer to downtown.

In other business at the work session and council meeting:

— The council discussed a possible bond issue to raise money for a new City Hall. The council has yet to pick out a site to replace the old city hall, which was torn down to make room for a new federal courthouse, though council members have said they hope to vote on the matter this summer. City Manager Steven Folks said no amount is yet set for a bond, though it “will not be in excess of $5 million.” At present, city departments are run from rented space in the Anniston Star building on McClellan Boulevard.

— The council voted to pay consulting firm Kimley-Horn $69,000 for a plan for future development of Anniston Regional Airport. The Federal Aviation Administration in April announced a potential a $1.56 million fine against the city for alleged safety violations. Folks said the city is still in talks with the FAA about the fine. Draper said the city is in talks with Oxford about the possibility creating an independent regional airport authority, something Draper and others on the council see as a fix for the airport’s woes.

— The council voted 5-0 to give final approval to a new ordinance on debris and leaf pickup. The ordinance, long debated in public meetings, would require people to put leaves and other types of debris in separate piles. Residents would also have to buy tags from the city to put on any appliances they want city workers to pick up. 

Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.