Zoning change approved for proposed psychiatric hospital

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council voted 6-2 Monday night to approve the zoning change that will allow the proposed 16-bed psychiatric hospital in southeast Willmar.

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council voted 6-2 Monday night to approve the zoning change that will allow the proposed 16-bed psychiatric hospital in southeast Willmar.

The Planning Commission proposed the rezoning of a two-acre site east of Seventh Street Southeast and south of Willmar Avenue Southeast from medium density multiple family residential to limited business to allow the hospital.

The rezoning was recommended by the Planning Commission.

The only comment received by the council during a public hearing on the rezoning was provided by Connie Schmoll, director of the Women's Shelter, which recently built a new facility in the area.

Schmoll welcomed the hospital to the area and said the community and the neighbors have been very accepting and helpful. The zoning change was approved by council members without discussion. Voting in favor were Steve Gardner, Ron Christianson, Denis Anderson, Cindy Swenson, Bruce DeBlieck and Doug Reese.


Voting against were Jim Dokken and Rick Fagerlie.

The hospital will be owned by the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission and will be leased by the Minnesota Department of Human Services. The hospital will replace beds that will be lost with the closing of the Willmar Regional Treatment Center.

The EDC governing board had approved an agreement to buy the two acres of land from Jeff and Sue Danielson for the hospital.

In other business, the council voted 7-1 to contribute up to $25,000 in matching funds from the 2006 budget to demilitarize and transport a retired naval F-14 Tomcat jet fighter from the naval station at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport to Willmar.

The contribution was recommended by the Finance Committee.

Voting in favor were Christianson, Anderson, Reese, DeBlieck, Dokken, Gardner and Fagerlie.

Voting against was Swenson.

The jet has been the subject of an intense fundraising effort, spearheaded by former Airport Commission member Patrick Curry. The council had been told that today was the deadline to let Navy officials know if sufficient funds were available to cover the estimated $52,000 cost of demiling and transporting the plane to Willmar.


Curry told the council that $31,500 had been raised, up from about $10,000 one week earlier.

Reese asked Curry if there is enough money to get the job done with funds Curry had raised and with the council's matching commitment.

"Yes, without a doubt,'' Curry said. "And I'm not through talking to people. I'm sure more will come in when people realize that we are going to get it. Without a doubt, I think there will be more money coming in.''

Since the first check was written Oct. 30, Curry said donations have come from businesses, individuals and groups in Minneapolis, Kandiyohi, Grove City, Bird Island, Cosmos, Clarkfield, Benson, Spicer, Willmar and Starbuck.

Curry also said the final cost would be less than the original estimate because some cost-cutting measures and steps are being taken.

"The bill will be reduced by quite a bit,'' said Curry.

Also, the Dec. 22 date required for moving the plane has been delayed because the time constraint for an East Coast crew to get the plane to Willmar is too close. The date is now sometime between January and March.

"We're not looking for a dollar being spent until it is delivered here,'' he said.

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