Big Bend Cares' Expansion Meets Opposition

Big Bend Cares Medical Facility Rendering
Posted at 5:00 PM, Sep 25, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-25 14:08:26-04

TALLAHASSEE, FL (WTXL) -- Big Bend Cares is getting help from city and county commissioners to expand their services and build a new facility.

Commissioners voted to chip in $1.5 million to help with the $13 million price tag of the project, which has faced opposition.

"We're going to try and do as much as we possibly can for people who desperately need more help," said Charlie Adams, deputy director of Big Bend Cares, a Tallahassee-based organization that's provided services for locals with HIV and AIDS for nearly 30 years.

With Thursday's approval from the CRA to help fund its expansion project, the organization is ready to move forward.

"We felt that it was a risk that they should take, and they did, and they are going to find out that it was a very good decision," Adams said.

Big Bend Cares plans to expand from its current location on 2201 Monroe Street to across the street, where they plan to build a 27,000-square foot facility that will stretch from the corner of Monroe and Magnolia Drive to Wallis Street. The organization says its expansion will revolutionize the neighborhood, but not everybody is on board with the project, including how it will be paid for.

"This is fundamentally wrong," said Dale Landry, president of Tallahassee's branch of the NAACP. He said the CRA's decision to fund the project is discriminatory, since Big Bend Cares does not serve the uninsured.

"We are going to see a class of people that pay taxes be deprived of the right to use the facility that are going to be put up by Big Bend," Landry said.

Big Bend Cares says the money approved by the CRA will be used strictly to build the facility, not to run it.

"The CRA has requirements for what they're allowed to do, and we met all of those requirements and have been very transparent with the ask and through the entire process," Adams said.

Still, Landry says he's upset with the agency's vote to financially support Big Bend Cares, claiming it does not promote economic equality for all people.

"If our fundamental value is not to discriminate, we cannot turn around and come back and find excuses or ways to allow discrimination and use tax dollars to support it," Landry said, adding the Tallahassee chapter of the NAACP has reached out to its national leaders about potentially suing the CRA for discrimination.

Big Bend Cares says it hopes to break ground on the new facility in January 2016 and to open it the following year.