Meeting gives public a chance to learn about psychiatric hospital

WILLMAR -- Willmar residents had a chance Tuesday night to hear firsthand -- and in detail -- about plans to build a 16-bed psychiatric hospital in Willmar.

WILLMAR -- Willmar residents had a chance Tuesday night to hear firsthand -- and in detail -- about plans to build a 16-bed psychiatric hospital in Willmar.

During a meeting that lasted nearly two hours, representatives of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission and the Minnesota Department of Human Services explained the project and fielded questions from the 30-some people who attended. Virtually no opposition was voiced to the project itself.

But questions were raised about everything from the site selection process to the construction timeline to how the facility will be staffed.

The strongest comment of the evening came from a man who questioned the $394,000 purchase price of the site, saying the cost was "overinflated."

"I think the public should know what the current market value of that property is ... I object to you people spending that kind of money," he said.


The 16-bed hospital will replace acute psychiatric beds that are being lost with the closing of the Willmar Regional Treatment Center.

When it opens, some time in the latter half of 2007, it will be one of 10 small-scale psychiatric hospitals in the state.

"These are to be intensive treatment hospitals to get (patients) better as fast as we can and get them on to the next level of care," said Rod Kornrumpf, administrator for adult mental health services with the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

The financial deal calls for the Economic Development Commission to own the building and fund its construction with $4 million in revenue bonds. The facility will be leased to the state, which will staff and operate the psychiatric program.

Site selection remains the most controversial aspect of the project.

The location, at East Willmar Avenue and Southeast Seventh Street, was chosen by state officials after viewing 20 potential sites -- and was the most expensive of all the locations that were considered.

Kornrumpf told the audience Tuesday night that access to transportation, main highways and nearby health services were among the key deciding factors.

Several in the audience questioned its suitability, however, citing the traffic on Willmar Avenue and the nearby presence of a busy shopping mall, junior high school and residential neighborhoods.


"There were properties that were much lower in cost," acknowledged Steve Renquist, executive director of the Economic Development Commission.

He told the group it's possible the site will be re-evaluated after soil borings, taken a couple of weeks ago, found that major soil corrections might be necessary.

"We may now be looking at some other sites. Nothing's been ruled out yet," he said. "I hope you realize this is a long process and we're not totally out of the woods yet."

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