Clinic battle rages in Florala

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 17, 2004

FLORALA - Residents of Florala may witness a heated debate during a Planing and Zoning Committee public hearing tonight at 6 p.m. for consideration of the rezoning of a Wiregrass clinic, which would be built in front of Florala Hospital.

"Basically there are two groups of people in this debate," Florala Mayor T.C. Boyett said. "One group is concerned with the move in front of the existing hospital, because they have said patients who go to the clinic could be transferred to Wiregrass Hospital in Geneva. They said that would, in turn, hurt (Florala's) business. They're also concerned Florala Hospital may have to close in the long-term. From what I've heard, people in the other group are basically standing behind Dr. David Marsh."

Marsh is a doctor in Florala whose office is affiliated with Wiregrass Hospital, and he "sold the practice years ago to Geneva but is operating as a doctor in the city."

"Wiregrass wants to expand and bring new equipment into Florala," Boyett said. "They have found property directly across from the hospital - which would be where they would erect the clinic."

Florala Hospital is a private family-owned operation.

Neither Blaire Hinson nor Dr. David Marsh could be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

Boyett announced there will also be a public hearing in regards to the zoning ordinance - as soon as the first council meeting in March.

"We'll have a vote on when the hearing will be on the next council agenda Monday," he said.

Once the council hears from the public, the fate of the clinic will be up to the council.

"The final decision will ultimately be the city's," Boyett said. "I believe this will settle down, but it is an emotional topic for a small number of people in two opposing groups."

According to Boyett, the location of the clinic will not be in the way of Florala Hospital.

"The city will be trying to make this a level playing field," he commented. "In my opinion, it is a reasonable location - it's across from a dentist's office, and an attorney's office is down the street. To me, it's not out-of-place."