The site where televangelist and self-proclaimed faith healer Leroy Jenkins housed his ministry for years will take on a new role in 2021 when it becomes the new headquarters of the Delaware General Health District.

Health commissioner Shelia Hiddleson said the district will construct a building of about 30,000 square feet at the now largely vacant lot at 470 S. Sandusky St.

The health district is outgrowing its location at 1, 3 and 5 W. Winter St., she said, as the county's population growth has expanded the health district's services.

The new location is expected to give the district enough room for its staff, programs and vehicles for 10 years after it opens, she said.

Hiddleson said the health district expects the land and construction costs won't exceed $6 million.

No tax dollars will be spent on the construction, she said; state law doesn't allow the district's levy funds to be used for such a project.

Instead, she said, the Ohio Revised Code allows the district to accumulate savings from some of the fees it charges. The district has been saving the money since 2000, during a time when the county's growth accelerated the rate of savings, she said.

The health district also has been considering options for a new site since then, she said.

"There was always the idea (Winter Street) probably would not be the permanent location," she said.

The county's growth has exacerbated the space crunch, she said.

The district has added employees as the number of its clients keeps increasing, she said. Since she joined the health district in 2013, she said, its number of plumbing inspectors increased from two to four. The district probably has added seven positions overall during that time, she said.

Among its many duties, the district inspects commercial and residential plumbing, she said, because plumbing problems can lead to health problems.

Wastewater must be separate from the water supply, for example, and a cross-connection between hot and cold water could increase the risk of legionella bacteria, which is transmitted by air, she said.

Many people don't realize, she added, that a health department inspection is needed when a water heater is installed.

The existing offices receive a significant number of visitors, she said. Restaurant owners, contractors and plumbers stop by regarding inspections; residents come for birth and death certificates for genealogical purposes; and a considerable number of families -- often young parents with several children -- visit the immunization clinic or receive other services, she said.

The health district performs a number of other services, Hiddleson said, including the preparation of detailed contingency plans in case of communicable-disease outbreaks.

The offices' three entrances can be confusing, she said, as "people end up in the wrong place because they don't know where to go." By comparison, the new building would have a single entrance.

A feasibility study determined it would take about $5 million to renovate the Winter Street offices to make their use more efficient, she said.

"It didn't make a lot of sense to put $5 million into these three buildings when we could probably do something else and have a building that's designed to be a health district," she said.

The report was received in 2018, and this year, the health district's board decided to build, Hiddleson said.

Delaware has no available buildings that would be large enough, and the board wanted the headquarters to be centrally located in the county, she said.

Columbus architectural and planning company Moody Nolan will design the building in as soon as two months, Hiddleson said, and will select the contractors. A groundbreaking is expected in March 2020 with completion in March or April 2021.

Traci Whittaker, the health district's public-information officer, said the new building will have about 200 parking spaces -- more than enough to alleviate the district's downtown's parking challenges.

The district has about 80 employees who are required to avoid parking in the central downtown, she said, along with about 30 vehicles, half of which are parked nearby overnight in space rented from the Fraternal Order of Eagles. The new site's extra parking also will be convenient for the district's clients, she said.

A building of about 10,000 square feet stands at 470 S. Sandusky St. and might provide an option for future expansion, Hiddleson said.

She said the district recently opened a branch office in Sunbury, in the shopping center on West Cherry Street, and might add another later in the Powell or Lewis Center area.

The health district's operations are funded by the smallest property-tax levy in the county, she said, at 0.7 mills. It costs residential homeowners $19.80 annually per $100,000 in property valuation, and will be up for renewal in 2024, she said.

Updates about the new building's progress will appear later at www.delawarehealth.org.

Healing Waters Cathedral at 470 S. Sandusky in the early 1970s and claimed to have appeared on at least 34 television stations.

He also made news after run-ins with the law and state authorities.

He served six years after a 1979 conviction for conspiracy to commit arson and assault, but was pardoned. He sold "miracle healing water" from a well at the site until an Ohio Department of Agriculture investigation in 2002 and 2003 that found coliform bacteria inside bottles of the water for sale.

Jenkins agreed to stop selling the water, left Ohio in 2000 for Arizona and sold 470 S. Sandusky St. to the Yogi Divine Society of New Jersey -- from which the district bought the property -- in 2003. He died in 2017.

The city of Delaware paid to tear down the ministry's main building in 2014 after inspectors found extensive damage to ceilings, wiring, plumbing and the heating system.

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