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Baxter City Council: Essentia Health speaks in opposition to Isle Drive project

BAXTER - Essentia Health representatives at Monday's Baxter City Council meeting spoke in opposition to the city's proposed Isle Drive extension project, saying the hospital will not get value from the assessment that could come with the project.

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An assessment hearing for the planned Isle Drive extension was held April 20 and construction on the road could start in May. Trees were cleared for the project earlier. Renee Richardson/Brainerd Dispatch File Photo

BAXTER - Essentia Health representatives at Monday's Baxter City Council meeting spoke in opposition to the city's proposed Isle Drive extension project, saying the hospital will not get value from the assessment that could come with the project.

Chuck Rickart of WSB and Associates went over the details of the proposed project before residents spoke. About a dozen people attended the hearing.

The south Isle Drive extension, utility and road project will link Baxter's south commercial district and growing medical facilities district from Glory Road to Highland Scenic Drive and Highway 371.

The proposed project runs south of the intersection with Falcon Drive, near the Essentia Health St. Joseph's - Baxter Clinic, to Highland Scenic Drive (also known as Crow Wing County Highway 48). The extended Isle Drive would open into a new roundabout intersection linking Highland Scenic Drive and Ironwood Drive.

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The proposed project runs south of the intersection with Falcon Drive, near the Essentia Health St. Joseph's - Baxter Clinic, to Highland Scenic Drive (also known as Crow Wing County Highway 48).

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The project also includes: improvements to a length of Ironwood Drive extending about 950 feet south of the new roundabout; turn lane, median and roundabout on Highland Scenic Drive; lift station and water main improvement from Baxter's water treatment plant to Highland Scenic Drive and Ironwood Drive; and residential area improvements between Perch Lake and Isle Drive and Isle Drive from Highland Scenic Drive to Perch Lake Drive.

The Isle Drive extension runs between Perch Lake and Highway 371.

The total cost of the project is $6.38 million with the city paying $2.55 million or 39.97 percent; Crow Wing County would pay $759,666 or 11.9 percent; and the property owners paying $4.07 million or 48.13 percent.

With the proposal, eight property owners in the south residential project area would have a 15-year payback period at 5 percent interest. All other parcels would be able to spread assessment payments over 12 years. First installments would begin in January of 2016.

When the public hearing was called, Jim Gammello, Essentia Health's legal counsel, and Mike J. Larson, chief operating officer for the Central Region at Essentia Health, spoke. Essentia Health has 40 acres of property in Baxter.

Larson spoke briefly and said Essentia Health won't get the value out of their property with the assessment for the proposed property.

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Jim Gammello, Essentia Health's legal counsel said Essentia Health is being asked to pay a third of the total assessment and they do not believe that is fair.

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Gammello said Essentia Health is being asked to pay a third of the total assessment and they do not believe that is fair. Gammello said Essentia Health is a nonprofit organization and the property is "unique."

Gammello asked the council how city staff came up with their assessment and what the benefit of the project would be to Essentia Health.

Baxter Mayor Darrel Olson said Essentia Health will benefit by having city sewer and water. Aric Walters of WSN answered Gammello's question and said the feasibility study that was done on the project shows how the assessments were calculated. He said the assessments are done to make it as fair as possible to all involved.

Gammello asked the council to reconsider their assessment for the proposed project, as Essentia Health does not believe the project will add value to the medical campus.

Only one other person spoke during the hearing - a resident asking about how property owners would pay for their assessment. Property owners can make partial or full payments on their assessments.

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Olson told the audience if property owners want to appeal the project "tonight is the night. ... Try to get your questions answered tonight."

The council plans to vote on the proposed project at their regular meeting scheduled Tuesday.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at jennifer.stockinger@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5851. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl .

Related Topics: ESSENTIA HEALTH
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