Houston officials dedicate environmental health building

WARNER ROBINS – Carla Coley said the dedication of the new David N. Harvey III Environmental Health Building meant more to the workers who knew the department’s woes before the building existed.

“Oftentimes, we’re called a silent and invisible part ... or the stepchild of the health department,” said Coley, manager of the Houston County Department of Environmental Health. “Oftentimes, we’re lucky to have our own door.

“That’s not the case anymore.”

About 100 people converged Thursday morning on the new environmental health building, at 98 Cohen Walker Drive, to celebrate its official grand opening. Among those on hand were several Houston County commissioners, Warner Robins City Councilman Bob Wilbanks and Houston County Director of Operations Tommy Stalnaker.

While the department’s staff, including health inspectors, moved into the new quarters in August, Thursday morning’s ceremony outside the building was used to thank supporters and officially dedicate the building to Harvey, who officials say was directly responsible for the growth of the department in the county.

“There should be some county code that you don’t do this to a man without a week’s notice,” Harvey said of the honor, which he learned of when the building’s official sign was revealed. “I came to Warner Robins in 1969 against the wishes of a lot of people who said the base would close any day. We worked in a small space on Davis Drive.

“Look where we are now.”

The building took about two years from idea to completion and cost about $600,000. The 6,000-square-foot structure is miles from the 800-square-foot space the department occupied in the back of the Houston County Health Department building, where workers sometimes shared space with the building’s custodial staff.

“In this new building, they’ll have room not only for today’s needs, but room to cover the growing of this county when needed,” said Ned Sanders, chairman of the Houston County Commission.

Harvey said he’s glad to be around and see the department get some recognition, especially since it’s one that few people think about.

“If no septic tanks go bad ... and the national fair goes off without a hitch, you say you had a good time and nothing went wrong,” Harvey said. “But what it takes is these people going out and doing their job.”

To contact writer Marlon A. Walker, call 256-9685.