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W’bago center hits sore spot for Weertses

By Staff | Aug 31, 2009

Bob Weerts

A new adolescent treatment center in Winnebago is great news for the community, however, events leading up to its construction have turned out to be a sore spot for the Weerts family.

First, when United Hospital District officials awarded bids for the nearly $4 million facility, not many local companies were selected for any of the work.

That prompted a message — Thanks UHD for not using local contractors — on an electronic sign sponsored by Weerts Companies in front of the city’s grocery store.

Now, construction workers have incorrectly marked off a site given by Bob Weerts and his family for the center.

In a written statement, Bob’s son, Jonathan, told the board the land was donated because of the benefits provided to patients served by the facility and the community.

“Now, it appears that someone is trying to acquire an additional 200 feet into our property,” says Jonathan. “This was never our intent.”

Board member Doug Johanson says he believes what happened was an honest misunderstanding.

Johanson says he and Bob Weerts went to the site so he could see for himself how much land the family was donating.

“He said, ‘Everything that was planted I’m keeping, and everything that’s not planted I’m giving,” Johanson told the board.The amount of land in question is two acres. As a result, construction has been put on hold.

The Weerts family says they placed their trust in hospital administrator Jeff Lang and board attorney Charles Frundt to prepare documents to transfer the land.

“We had to sign transfer papers three times as there were errors in their preparation,” says Jonathan Weerts.

The Weertses say the mistake was first noticed when stakes were placed in their field planted with soybeans.

Jonathan Weerts says an e-mail Lang sent to UHD employees has led to misinformation and is causing the family a great deal of grief.

“Now, due to public statements we’re being given a black eye,” says Jonathan.

Frundt says the hospital district has agreed to give back the land not intended as a gift, with a permanent easement agreement.

The mistake has created two problems.

The district plans to use the land in dispute for geo-thermal wells and possibly build extended care cottages in the future.

Construction project manager Mark Mensing says the wells will use about 60 percent of the two acres. He says the wells can create slurries.

The district will pay for any crop damage the wells cause this year and in the future.

Under the agreement, the district may buy the extra land for $50,000 and the offer is good for five years.

Board member Brenda Baldwin thanked the Weertses for their donation and offered an apology.

“We’re sorry for any misunderstanding there has been,” she told the Weertses.

Lang says the district has always been very grateful for the donation the Weerts family has made.

“I apologize for anything I may have done or said that has offended your family. That was not my intention,” says Lang.

Johanson says once errors are made, “When they start rolling they go out of control” but everything has been resolved.

“Errors were made. We appreciate the gift. We’ve solved the problem and we’re moving forward,” adds Johanson.

The board approved the agreement, however, Bob Weerts told board members he needs to speak with his attorney before his family decides what to do.