City of Baxter, Essentia Health move to mediation
BAXTER--A dispute between the city of Baxter and Essentia Health is on its way to mediation. After a closed meeting last week under the attorney-client privilege to discuss the Essentia Health lawsuit, Brad Person, Baxter city attorney, said staf...
BAXTER-A dispute between the city of Baxter and Essentia Health is on its way to mediation.
After a closed meeting last week under the attorney-client privilege to discuss the Essentia Health lawsuit, Brad Person, Baxter city attorney, said staff was unable to reach a settlement and the council authorized formal mediation.
The issue came up nearly a year ago regarding the assessment amount for the Isle Drive extension project.
Cities are tasked with charging an assessment in direct relationship with the benefit to the property owner. Property owners have the ability to challenge those special assessments in district court.
The road thus far
A year ago when Essentia Health's legal representatives addressed the council, the argument was the medical center was being asked to pay a third of the total assessment, which they did not believe was fair.
"Essentia Health and the city of Baxter disagree on the assessment process for the extension of Isle Drive to County Road 48," said Adam Rees, president Essentia Health Central Region, in a written statement last May. "Although Essentia has no objection to this project, paying an excessive and disproportionate amount for the road doesn't align with our values of stewardship and justice. Essentia leadership attempts to collaborate with the city have been unsuccessful at this time. We continue to be an active participant in the process the city and state has to appeal the assessment and will stay true to our values."
After the city learned Essentia Health was ready to take it to court over the assessment, the city contended the dispute shouldn't go that far.
Last spring Brad Person, Baxter city attorney, said property owners have appealed assessments in the city, but he thought this was a first for an appeal after a developer's agreement was signed.
"The clinic came in about five years ago and one of the conditions of theirs to build in Baxter was that we promise to push through Isle Drive," Person said. "So as part of the development package they signed documents asking for that and they also signed documents waiving their right to appeal the assessment when that comes some day. Now they are doing what in fact they promised not to do five years ago."
The Isle Drive project took a dead-end near the Essentia Health-Baxter Clinic and extended it south to Highland Scenic Drive, also known as Crow Wing County Highway 48. Isle Drive, which runs between Highway 371 and Perch Lake, now provides a link from the south with its access a short distance from the Highland Scenic Drive intersection with Highway 371.
RENEE RICHARDSON, associate editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Dispatchbizbuzz .