Panama City Commissioners, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency approved a lease for a new Bay County Health Department clinic offering emergency treatment and after-hours care.
But, surprisingly, things got a little heated during Tuesday's discussions.
The Panama City North CRA wound-up with the old A.D. Harris High School facility after the school district closed it 2-years ago, envisioning a place to house community resources.
For now, it remains closed.
The Bay County Health Department wants to change that status.
"Basically, we've created a partnership with A.D. Harris Improvement Society that will be leasing the space," said William Whitson, CRA director.
But some do not believe the clinic will be best for the community.
"Putting a free clinic in there that occupies the smallest amount of space could serve as a determent, in discouraging other organizations to move in there,” said John Kary, also part of the CRA. “And, I think it reinforces the worst stereotypes that you can think of for blighted African American communities and I just can't support it."
But, Improvement Society President and A.D. Harris' daughter Blondelle Harris McGowan believes her father would have been pleased with the health clinic proposal.
"Part of his mission was the health of this community,” McGowan said. “He took many of them himself to the hospital and you couldn't go into the same doors at that time, but he took them because he was always concerned about the quality of life in that area."
Commissioners voted 4-to-1 in-favor of the lease.
The health department will use a 2.5 million dollar state grant to establish the center, which would house as many as 15-phisicians.
The clinic will not be free, patients will pay for services on a sliding scale, based on their income.