Future of hospital building among city's complex issues

By: 

Lorna Marquardt, Leader Columnist

“Positive anything is better than negative nothing.” — Elbert Hubbard

For the past two years, I’ve been contributing articles to The Shawano Leader via a column named “Positively Shawano.” I selected that name because there are so many positive things to be said about our community. Thank you to The Shawano Leader for giving me this opportunity. Thanks, readers, for your input and kind comments.

Recently a resident contacted me and said, “Every week you write about all the great things going on, but in a city our size, there must be things that you are concerned about; issues that are controversial or difficult. I appreciate reading about the positives, but would you change course and write about some pressing issues in one of your columns?”

I thought about his comments. He is correct. Of course, everything is not wonderful all the time. The city has concerns and problems we deal with on a regular basis. I choose to focus on the positives, but I would be the first to acknowledge we also deal with many complex issues.

After some thought, I decided to use today’s column to comment on a few multifaceted issues.

One area of concern is business retention. A resident commented to me, “Oh, I heard the city is losing another business.” In the next breath the resident told me his family shops at Menards and Festival Foods in Green Bay. Residents clearly have a right to shop wherever they choose; however, if our own residents do not support businesses here in Shawano, then it should come as no surprise if a business does not survive.

On the upside, several new businesses have opened here recently. We are reviewing site plans for additional new construction and business expansions.

As you are aware, ThedaCare will begin its construction project in July with a projected completion date in 2014. As mayor, I have heard from numerous people who are excited about the new hospital.

Comments have also been made by residents questioning the need for a new building. Concerns have been expressed about the re-use of the existing facility.

ThedaCare’s administration spent considerable time evaluating whether it was feasible to remain in the existing hospital or if the time had come to build a new facility. We are fortunate their decision was not to simply vacate the existing facility and move out of our community. How devastating it would be if we didn’t have a hospital. I know Clintonville residents definitely miss theirs.

The economic impact the new medical center will have on the city of Shawano will be substantial. The project is estimated to cost about $50 million. That is a huge investment in our community! ThedaCare officials said the staffing of the medical facilities will not change significantly because they are merging three staffs; however the construction project will provide work for about 300 laborers. It is projected the new hospital will spur other new business development, particularly along the County Road B corridor.

A major concern of residents is what will become of the existing hospital. I have heard many suggested uses, including YMCA, veterans home, apartment buildings, assisted living facility, a location for juvenile rehabilitation, museum or tear it down and build a convention center, a high-end restaurant or an art gallery. There will be an opportunity for residents to attend meetings to offer suggestions. A task force has been appointed to review and analyze suggested uses.

We do not want this to become a burden on our city taxpayers; we need to work together to find the most viable reuse for this property. Another way for citizens to voice their opinions is by taking the Park & Recreation survey that can be found online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/cshawanoparks. There is a question regarding reuse of the current hospital site. The suggestions will be forwarded to the task force. Copies of the survey are also available at City Hall and the rec center.

So, does the city have issues on its plate? All the time. What is important is how we deal with them.

The answer to last week’s trivia question — What was the name of the rest home located at 131 LaFayette St. (1959) owned by Mary Mielke? — is Bide Awhile Rest Home. This week’s question is: In what year was the Shawano Municipal Hospital erected?

Lorna Marquardt is mayor of Shawano.