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Time seems to be right for large expansion projects at UHD

By Staff | Dec 15, 2008

One wouldn’t be able to blame Jeff Lang for getting tired of hearing about the proposed expansion projects at United Hospital District.

Even if he is the one who is doing all the talking about them.

After all, the UHD administrator has given the same speech so many times, he could probably recite it in his sleep.

Lang has described the project at five different public meetings. Plus, he has given almost the identical presentation to the hospital board a couple of times, and to different groups of hospital personnel.

In other words, he has the speech memorized.

Yet each time he patiently went over all the material, and answered all the questions that were asked. Even if the questions were the same ones he had heard before.

Lang says most people just want to know four things. What are they going to build, where is it going to be located, and, most importantly, how much it will cost and who is going to pay for it.

Lang has said each time that the hospital will be constructing a new clinic building to the south of the hospital.

Currently the UHD-Clinic is located in the Ag Center, on Grove Street.

Lang says they will shortly run out of room at the current clinic, which he calls a good thing. The lack of space is due to several new doctors who have come on board, or will be by next August.

The other reason for the expansion is to get the hospital and clinic in one facility. It makes sense, Lang says, for all the doctors to be in one location. Currently some are at the clinic, and some are located in the hospital.

As far as location, Lang says the hospital district now owns all the land it will need for the clinic expansion, but they still need to choose between two sites for the Winnebago Treatment Center.

The cost is slated to be $15 million for the clinic expansion in Blue Earth, and $4 million for the Winnebago Center.

As far as paying for it, Lang says UHD will use some of their cash reserves as well as hospital revenue bonds.

He has repeatedly stressed that they will not levy a property tax to pay for it, although that funding source is available to them. As a public body, the hospital district has the power to levy a tax. Lang says there has never been a need to do so, and he doesn’t see it happening in the future.

That explanation seems to put a lot of people’s minds at ease at the public hearings. The attitude seems to be ‘if they can pay for it without using tax money – go for it.’

Lang says the hospital board is very conservative, and their primary concern has been whether the two building projects can be done financially.

The large dollar amounts have concerned some of the folks at the informational meetings.

One lady at the Senior Citizens Center in Blue Earth asked if the hospital still had some debt left from the last building project.

“We still have a little amount.” Lang said in response.

“What do you consider ‘little.'” she pressed on. “About $4 or 5 million,” Lang answered.

She didn’t think that was a very small amount. However, in the scheme of things it probably is. The hospital has an annual budget of $30 million, and posted a multi-million dollar profit last year.

The good news for all of that is the hospital is financially sound and can afford to do another building project.

Even though some businesses and government entities are cutting back and looking at harder economic times ahead, the hospital is looking at expansion. They are in a strong enough position to do so.

We wish them well in the endeavor, and hope it means UHD will remain a strong and viable operation – and employer – well into the future.