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Council discusses new fire hall

WORTHINGTON -- Planning for the newly proposed fire station continued Thursday morning at a special city council session. City officials recently met with representatives from Sanford Worthington Medical Center as part of a last-chance proposal t...

WORTHINGTON -- Planning for the newly proposed fire station continued Thursday morning at a special city council session.

City officials recently met with representatives from Sanford Worthington Medical Center as part of a last-chance proposal to establish a joint ambulance and fire station facility at the former Campbell Soup Co. site in downtown Worthington.

Architects analyzed trimming the four-bay facility to three bays, estimating the cost to be at $600,000. SWMC representatives are prepared to pay $400,000 in annual payments of $40,000 over the next 10 years.

However, SWMC has looked into constructing the facility at other locations such as current fire station site and an area in the industrial park.

"The common question that comes up to me that I can't really quite figure out is, 'Why really not connect it to the emergency care facility in the first place?" Alderman Mike Woll asked SWMC representatives of their decision to look into housing the facility at other locations.

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Gary Kellen, chairman of SWMC's board of directors, appreciated the viability of having a joint facility, but also explained the hospital has laid out a five-year plan in which an emergency department is not placed as a high priority item on the capital expenditures list.

Having a facility in the industrial park would also be more cost effective for SWMC because of the close proximity to the helicopter pad.

Constructing a helicopter landing could potentially cost $150,000 to $200,000 -- an expense the hospital is not presently prepared to make, according to Kellen.

In addition to the unbudgeted expenses, SWMC Chief Executive Officer Lynn Olson pointed out other logistical complications of having the fire department at the downtown location.

"The reality is, based on our preliminary looks at it (fire hall), this distinct blueprint won't accommodate having ambulance space," Olson said. "We would have to do some drastic things, and that would include going across 11th Street and basically closing that street and reworking that block. We're not sure that's going to be approved, and that's why we're looking at options."

Alderman Ron Wood expressed his desire to have a joint facility with the SWMC and suggested representatives from SMWC and the city meet again in an effort to establish an agreement on the facility.

Mayor Alan Oberloh noted the $200,000 discrepancy between construction costs and what SWMC is presently prepared to pay, adding that regardless of what decision is made, moving forward with the fire station plans was necessary.

"We're bleeding red ink profusely at this point and we need to change that," Kellen added of the hospital's current expenditures. "We have to focus on that end of it (patient care) right now."

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SWMC is currently remodeling the first floor of its facility, and there are future plans to remodel the intensive care unit on the second floor as well as projections to add seven physicians to its staff this year.

In other business Thursday, the council:

* Approved changes in the snow removal policy. The policy updates are mainly verbiage changes, with the most notable revision being the declaration of a snow emergency.

* Approved an agreement between the city's community service officer and Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Worthington campus.

The agreement would allow students in the law enforcement program to participate in a work-study program with the intent of alleviating some of the community service officer's overload of tasks.

The city would pay for 25 percent of the workers' hourly wages. The Minnesota State College and Universities system would pay for the remaining costs.

Related Topics: FIRES
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