Area News | Home | Marketplace | Community

Return to Archived Stories

Paynesville Press - December 18, 2002

Eden Lake Township joins hospital district

By Jennifer E. Johnson

It's official, almost.

The Eden Lake Township Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday, Dec. 10, to join the Paynesville Area Hospital District. The supervisors voted to join based on the outcome of the "advisory" election held in November, in which township residents voted 390-193 to join the district.

Unless challenged, the resolution to join the hospital district will become effective 40 days after its publication this week. In order to challenge the resolution, at least five percent of the voters who voted at the last election of officers would need to sign a petition of referendum, in which case a special election would be called, according to state law.

After passing the resolution to join the hospital district, township board chairman Conrad Blomker introduced the issue of the hospital district's power to tax the township, referencing an article in the Nov. 13 edition of the Paynesville Press.

The article stated that by adding Eden Lake Township's tax base the hospital district would be able to borrow a greater sum of money at better rates. It also included PAHCS CEO Steve Moburg's reiteration of their preference to continue operating without taxing.

At the township meeting last week, Moburg reiterated his desire to operate PAHCS without taxing. (PAHCS has operated a hospital for 46 years without taxing; it formed the hospital district a decade ago and has not taxed since.)

"Ten years ago, PAHCS had the borrowing power of $50 million," Moburg said. "With the addition of Eden Lake Township to the hospital district, we now have the borrowing power of $500 million."

With finances tight, Moburg said the hospital district had to set limits. "It's time to assess our needs, and I am not interested in doing any new building projects right now" he emphasized. "We are not planning on (taxing)."

At their meeting last week, the township board also opened the floor to those interested in serving as the township's representative on the hospital board. The representative will serve on the hospital district until the next general election in 2004, when the position will be up for election.

Township residents Lonn Peterson and Joe Gruenes both attended the meeting and stated their qualifications and reasons for seeking the appointment. Another township resident, Ross Amundson, was also under consideration but was not present. Township supervisor Ralph Hennen claimed partial responsibility for Amundson's absence, stating he neglected to follow up with Ross directly.

Peterson addressed the Eden Lake Township hospital district vote held in 1992. "One of the major reasons that the township voted against it," he said, "was that they didn't want a tax increase." He stated that he would vote against an increase if he were appointed to the board.

Noting his current involvement on the hospital foundation board in addition to his experience as the owner of two successful businesses and management at two Fortune 500 companies, he promised to "help the board watch the dollars going in and out."

Gruenes, a farmer for the last 40 years in the township, also addressed the need to watch spending on the hospital district board. "I've lived in Eden Lake Township all my life, and also consider myself a successful businessman," he said. He stated his years of experience sitting on the township board and pointed out that he made his desire to be considered for this position known immediately following the November election.

In support of Gruenes, Hennen said, "I've had quite a few calls from people asking me to support Joe."

Peterson responded that if he had known that it was a popularity vote, he would have had people conduct a calling campaign on his behalf.

Faced with two choices, the board was indecisive. Members of the public offered several suggestions, from holding interviews with all three candidates to having an immediate vote.

The board finally agreed to decide by secret ballot and then make a motion to appoint whoever won the secret vote. Gruenes got two votes to one for Peterson. The board members then unanimously appointed Gruenes as Eden Lake Township's representative on the hospital board.

Peterson congratulated Gruenes and immediately declared his candidacy for the 2004 election.

Contact the author at   •   Return to News Menu

Home | Marketplace | Community