A vacant county-owned building is one step closer to being the new site of the Franklin County Health Department.

This week, the Franklin County Commission approved a $43,000 contract with Cochran Engineering of Union to do the architectural design and provide construction oversight of the project.

The county currently rents a building at 15 S. Oak St. in Union for the health department at $1,600 a month.

The proposed new location is the former county prosecutor’s office on East Main Street in downtown Union. That building has been gutted, and renovating it for the new health department is expected to cost $350,000 to $400,000, Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer noted.

Health Department Director Conn Roden said he hopes his agency can be in the building by the beginning of next summer.

Roden added that the current health department location is small.

“We’re certainly in cramped quarters,” he said, adding that the department has been there since 1991.

Renovating the building will also be a step toward getting county agencies out of rental property, Griesheimer noted.

“The goal obviously is to save money,” Griesheimer said, noting that rent costs tend to rise.