City delighted to shed hospital district

by Dawn Feddersen-Poindexter

Contributing writer

The Otsego City Council heard from New River Medical Center about their new partnership with CentraCare Health System at their regular meeting Jan. 28.

“For the residents in the hospital district, this is a great benefit because it means no future tax levies,” said Otsego City Administrator Lori Johnson. “This eliminates that.”

The council was excited to see a potential end to the 50-year-old hospital district, which had an indisputable ability to impose a tax levy on the residents of the seven cities in the district. In recent years, the city of Otsego had taken legal action to try and leave the hospital district and its ability to tax its residents, but a judge denied their efforts.

Though CentraCare took over daily operations of New River Medical Center at the beginning of this year, negotiations for an official partnership are still ongoing.

Also at their meeting, the council heard about a plan to address standing water issues on Needham Avenue, south of 85th Street.

The storm sewer pipe along Needham Avenue has failed, causing water to accumulate in roadside ditches and on private property. Often the water will remain for long periods of time, growing stagnant and attracting mosquitoes. According to residents, the problem has been worsening over time.

The proposed project will replace the failed 10-inch pipe with a new 15-inch pipe, angled at a greater slope to encourage drainage. The work is estimated to cost $44,000, which will be paid entirely by assessments from 26 property owners who are either affected by the standing water or whose properties contribute to the drainage.

The council agreed to consider the matter. They will decide Feb. 11 whether or not to hold a public hearing, after which they will determine whether or not to proceed with the project. The public hearing is proposed to be held March 11. Affected property owners will be notified by mail in advance of the meeting and invited to share their thoughts.

City Clerk Tami Loff told the council she had heard from two property owners who were in favor of the project, in spite of the projected costs to them. One property owner attended the council meeting and said that he disagreed with his property being deemed as contributing to the drainage issue

In other matters, the council agreed to hand over the responsibility of commercial property fire inspections to the Elk River Fire Department.

Johnson explained, “In the interest of getting this information into the hands of the organization that is going to be fighting the fires, the Elk River Fire Department is geared up and ready to do this.”

The fee of $50 an hour will remain the same. The council acknowledged that inspections performed by a new agency might take longer than usual and so they agreed that for this year they would pay for any additional time the inspections might take beyond the first hour.