The proposal to develop a new hospital up to $35 million in value on the former Mount Senario College athletic fields in Ladysmith moved a step closer last week with Marshfield Clinic requesting rezoning the 11-acre Port Arthur Road property.

At its Oct. 30 meeting, the city’s Planning Commission considered the request from Mike Olson, manager of real estate and properties for Marshfield Clinic Health Systems. In the letter he requests zoning change at “the proposed medical facility site” from current R-3 multi-family residential zoning to C-1 commercial “or the appropriate zoning to build a health care facility.”

“We would like to start this process as soon as possible,” Olson wrote.

The request does not mean the property is selling yet, according to Ladysmith City Administrator Al Christianson. “But it is one step closer,” he said.

A public hearing on the rezoning request will be held before the planning commission at 5:20 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 21, at city hall.

The Ladysmith Common Council acted last May to enter into an option with Marshfield Clinic Health Systems Hospitals to purchase the former Mount Senario College athletic fields. Details of the option to purchase were not made available.

The option allowed Marshfield Clinic to perform “due diligence” exploration of the property, which is along the south side of Port Arthur Road, west of Wis. 27 and Walmart.

The Health System currently in Ladysmith has a clinic that offers walk-in care, family medicine and specialty care, a dental center and a physical therapy center.

The Rusk County Board in August 2017 approved a Letter of Intent, and in February 2018 approved a Definitive Agreement that established terms to affiliate Rusk County Memorial Hospital and the Clinic at Riverside with Marshfield Clinic Health System. As part of the agreement, a new hospital will be built in Rusk County.

Marshfield Clinic has agreed to purchase land to construct a new hospital, medical office building and ambulatory and acute care service facility within the county. At this time no definitive location has been determined for the facility.

The agreement authorizes Marshfield Clinic to invest not more than $35 million in the acquisition of land, construction and furnishing of the new hospital. The clinic will pay a minimum of $400,000 per year in lease payments to the county for rent of the current building.

The agreement to purchase RCMH came after months of active negotiations between the county and Marshfield Clinic Health System. A Letter of Intent with MCHS followed an in-depth study identifying future opportunities to grow and sustain a viable critical access hospital with local health care services.

Answering a request for proposals were Sacred Heart and MCHS. Marshfield Clinic was selected as the sole partner to move forward with a non-binding Letter of Intent.

Soil borings at 16 locations on the proposed site were taken in August, and that 36-page report was released by the city this week.

Project details such as building location/layout, number of stories, basement levels, finished floor elevations, construction type, and foundation loads are not available as of the date of the report. Additional borings and a project-specific geotechnical report will be needed for the building after those details are available.

Construction engineers reported the site has had some filling or grading done in its history, and most of the soils used were likely on-site soils. They also mentioned the site was used as a concrete batch plant for about 30 years and the concrete trucks were washed out on-site.

The report states, “Soil borings measured about 1 inch to 2 feet of topsoil at the surface of 10 of our sites, and fill or coarse alluvium at the surface of the remaining borings. They encountered fill and/or possible fill to depths of 2 to 17.5 feet in 12 borings. The fill and possible fill consisted of mostly silty sand with varying silt and gravel contents. The remaining soils were coarse alluvium and mixed alluvium. The coarse alluvium was mostly loose to very dense sand with varying silt and gravel contents, and gravel with varying silt and sand content. The mixed alluvium was mostly loose to medium dense clayey sand and sandy lean clay, each with varying gravel content. We also encountered apparent cobbles in at least nine of our borings at varying depths.”

“We encountered from 2 to 17.S feet of fill or possible fill in most of our borings. The fill was very similar to the naturally-occurring soils in many locations at the site, and it is possible the actual fill-to-native interface is deeper or shallower than shown on our boring logs. We suggest test pits be performed as part of the final subsurface exploration program; test pits provide a large-scale view of the subsurface conditions that cannot be observed in borings, and test pits would help to differentiate the fill and native soils,” the report states.

“The fill was highly variable in composition and relative density. Thus, we recommend the existing fill be removed from new structure areas and replaced in compacted lifts; a conventional spread footing foundation system could then be constructed on the new fill system,” the report states.

“Following site preparation as described above, structures could probably be supported on conventional shallow foundations bearing on competent naturally-occuring soils, or on fill placed and compacted over a suitable sub grade,” the report states.

Last May, Marshfield Clinic Health System and Gundersen Health System announced they are in discussions to potentially merge the organizations into one, fully-integrated health system to col-collectively enhance the level of care across Wisconsin, northeast Iowa and southeastern Minnesota.

The two organizations will spend the coming months working out details of a possible merger that could create a health system led by more than 2,000 clinicians and with more than 18,000 total employees.

Based in La Crosse, Gundersen Health System is an integrated healthcare organization serving counties in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.

Based in Marshfield, Marshfield Clinic is a health care system with over 50 locations in northern, central and western Wisconsin.

The Ladysmith hospital currently employs between 170 and 180 people.

In a related move, the Ladysmith city council recently authorized sending a notice of termination of easement and license to Don Smith at North Cedar Academy as regards its use of the former MSC athletic facilities, which are city-owned.

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