Condemnation gets go-ahead

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News

March 9, 2011 - 12:00 AM

While they have the county’s blessing to proceed with the eminent domain process, Allen County Hospital trustees remain hopeful that deals still can be reached to acquire land for a new hospital.
“We’re still hoping for fruitful discussions,” Trustee Sean McReynolds said at their meeting Tuesday night.
“It continues to be our desire for this to be as harmonious as possible,” added Harry Lee, chairman of the Allen County Hospital board of trustees. “We’re not asking for condemnation right away.”
Earlier Tuesday, Allen County commissioners said they would pursue condemnation of land for the new hospital when trustees considered negotiations with landowners no longer were fruitful.
Those negotiations are “proceeding; but not hastily,” said Jay Kretzmeier, a hospital trustee.
One stumbling block in the negotiations is where landowners also own buildings on their parcels and want cost of replacement for those structures.
“The issue is of appraised value, not replacement value,” said Lee.
Still, trustees remain hopeful that they can avoid court proceedings for the majority of the parcels.

NO ACTION was taken at Tuesday’s County Commission meeting following 20 minutes of closed discussions with Don and Ella May Britt, owners of two of the eight tracts containing 17 acres. Two owners, O’Brien Ready Mix and The Family Physicians, have agreed to sell; two others are “strong possibilities to agree to sell,” but not yet officially committed, said Alan Weber, Allen County counselor.
If land acquisition comes down to condemnation — Weber thinks that is likely with at least one parcel — progress on the hospital will be “pretty much dead in the water,” he said. “The architects can do some conceptual design, but nothing specific until we have title to the land.”
The condemnation would take about 60 days, Weber said, from when commissioners officially pull the trigger on the eminent domain process.
“Three appraisers will be selected by the District Court and once they reach a conclusion of what they think the land (in question) is worth and give those numbers to the judge, the county will pay the landowners and work can start,” he said.
If a landowner or the county disagrees with the appraisers’ assessment, their recourse would be to file an appeal. If the appeal finds in favor of the county, it would receive a refund on what it paid; if the appeal favored the landowner, the county would pay more.
In a nutshell, hospital trustees and commissioners can’t turn a shovel of dirt and do much in the way of significant planning until the title to the land is in the county’s hand. In part, Weber said, that is because square footage of the hospital depends on how much money is available, which will be determined somewhat by land costs.
“That’s a fact of life,” Weber said.
An appraisal by Aul and Hatfield, Lawrence, judged the 17 acres to be worth $605,000, or about $35,600 an acre, which trustees used in making their offers to the eight landowners.

HOSPITAL TRUSTEES selected the accounting firm of BKD, LLP, Kansas City, Mo., to conduct a feasibility study of the hospital’s finances and conduct its audits for at least two years beginning in 2012.
BKD won out over McGladrey and Pullen of Kansas City, Mo., and Wendling, Noe, Nelson and Johnson of Topeka.
Trustees favored BKD’s extensive experience with critical access hospitals in Kansas.
Conversations with Hospital Corporation of America continue as to whether it will be hired as the hospital’s new management firm. Plans are to end the current contract with HCA at the end of the year.
A subcommittee of hospital trustees is studying the issue. Trustee Patti Boyd said “the decision is still to come as to whether to retain HCA or open up bids” to other vendors. They should reach that decision by the end of the month, Boyd said.

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