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Rice board OKs resolution to issue notes for center expansion

WILLMAR -- Three million dollars' worth of revenue notes is slated to be issued next month to finance the construction of a new short-term care wing at the Rice Care Center.

A resolution asking the Willmar City Council to issue the notes was approved Wednesday night by the Rice Memorial Hospital board of directors.

It's one of several formalities before the financing package can be completed, said Bill Fenske, chief financial officer at Rice Hospital.

"Now we're in the process of approving all the resolutions," he said.

The City Council already held a hearing Monday on the matter. The hospital board's action on Wednesday was the next-to-last step before the notes can be formally issued.

Willmar City Council members will have their final vote in early March. Once that happens, the notes then can be sold, allowing the proceeds to flow back into the budget for the construction project.

Fenske said a consortium of local banks has already agreed to buy the $3 million in notes and loan the money back to the hospital at a 4.25 percent annual interest rate.

"We're not going to be going out to the public to sell these revenue notes. They're pretty much all presold," he said.

Construction started this fall on the Rice Care Center project, which will add a 23-bed wing for short-term rehabilitation.

A snowy winter has put the project about two weeks behind schedule, said Mike Schramm, chief executive of Rice Hospital.

But in spite of the delays, construction is "going quite well," he said. "Progress is being made."

About 75 percent of the excavation and site preparation have been completed, and crews are now working to enclose the building and lay the roof.

The project will be able to move forward more rapidly once the structure is closed in, Schramm said. "Our goal is to obviously get the building enclosed sooner rather than later."

The new wing, on the south side of the nursing home, is part of a three-year plan to update the facility, create a more home-like environment for the residents, and upgrade the Rice Care Center's ability to respond to a growing need for short-term rehab services.

In the final phase, the Rice Care Center will undergo major renovation of resident rooms and the program space for its skilled nursing services.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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