Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Board rejects hospital plan

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 3/30/17

GREENWOOD TWP — Town board members and residents here made their displeasure with the Cook-Orr Healthcare District known at the township’s annual reorganization held March 23.

The board …

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Board rejects hospital plan

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GREENWOOD TWP — Town board members and residents here made their displeasure with the Cook-Orr Healthcare District known at the township’s annual reorganization held March 23.

The board unanimously approved a resolution opposed to the effort by the hospital district board to add five townships to the district’s tax base, without getting approval from the township governments involved, or their voters.

The hospital board is hoping to add Greenwood, Vermilion Lake, Alango, Sturgeon, and Morcom townships to the district as a way to expand their tax base and reduce the impact of the $1.3 million levy on residents in Cook, Orr, and several other townships that currently pay into the district. District officials believe the townships are within the original boundaries of the district, but never approved taxing authority for the district.

“I think this is outrageous,” said Greenwood Board Chair John Bassing. “Their assumption that Greenwood is in the district is a falsehood. Greenwood is not included in the initiating legislation.” The hospital district has been distributing an undated map indicating that all five of the townships are within the original boundaries of the district, but the origins of the map aren’t clear.

The hospital district has sought to convince Greenwood more than once to join the district, but the board has opposed the effort and a community survey of residents conducted last year found overwhelming opposition to joining the district. Greenwood, with its almost half billion dollars in valuation, would nearly double the tax base of the district and residents are concerned that they would pay too high a share of the district’s levy even though many residents don’t typically utilize the Cook Hospital. “A lot of residents go to Virginia,” commented resident Marcie Moe during the meeting. In addition, board members noted last week that Greenwood already pays into the Tower Ambulance Service, which typically transports patients to Virginia or Ely. The hospital levy provides funding to both the Cook and Orr Ambulance services.

Others were concerned that the legislative change could have unforeseen effects statewide. Greenwood property owner Steve Lotz noted that the enabling legislation for hospital districts in Minnesota requires two-thirds approval by a city council or town board to join a district and allows residents to petition for a public vote. If that provision were changed, he said, other hospitals might see it as a way to forcibly annex property value in outlying communities.

Greenwood Supervisor Mike Ralston agreed. “The Cook Hospital is a fine facility, but where does it end?” he asked.

The town board approved the resolution offered by Chair Bassing, titled Resolution to Stop Hostile Annexations by Cook Hospital District, unanimously. The resolution challenges the hospital district’s claim that Greenwood was ever officially within the boundaries of the district, notes longstanding local opposition to joining the district, and argues for continuing with current law that provides townships the choice of joining a special taxing district, like the hospital district.

In reorganizational business, the board:

• Voted to appoint Bassing as chairman for another year, and appointed Carmen DeLuca as vice-chair.

• Set their regular meeting date and time as the second Tuesday of the month, at 6:30 p.m.

• Approved a motion granting check-signing authority to township officials.

• Named Frandsen Bank as the official depository.

• Named the Timberjay as the township’s official newspaper.

• Appointed Mike Couri as the township attorney for another year.

• Appointed the following board members to various positions and boards: Ambulance Commission- Larry Tahija; Road Supervisor- Mike Ralston; Lodging Tax Board- Paul Skubic; TS Joint Powers Recreation Board- Pam Rodgers; Lake Vermilion Trail liaison- John Bassing; 911 coordinator- John Bassing; Fire Department liaison to Tower-Breitung Fire Department- John Bassing.

• Approved policy changes clarifying which township officials have the right to contact the Minnesota Association of Township attorneys, indicating that all supervisors have the ability to contact those attorneys one-on-one.

• Set a tentative date of Aug. 26, 2017, for the celebration of the township’s 40th anniversary.

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Shaking my head

How on earth can a hospital board, of a FOR PROFIT small town hospital, have any influence with legislators to try to force taxation on unwilling citizens? The vast majority of Greenwood residents and seasonal property owners have health insurance, we are not affecting their bottom line. We are already paying our 'fair share'. That silly progressive mantra of 'fair share' is too ridiculous to even entertain. My family chooses to go to Virginia, Duluth, and Hibbing for our health care. Perhaps if Cook's hospital were a non-profit, folks could donate $ and receive a tax write-off. How many times do we need to say NO before they 'get it'? Why isn't the facility a non-profit?

Sunday, April 2, 2017