Marshall Council hears updates from Avera

MARSHALL – A wide range of topics were brought before the Marshall City Council at its regular meeting Tuesday. Council members heard updates on the Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center and took action on a variety of public works projects from tree removal to replacing equipment at the city wastewater treatment facility.

Avera Marshall President and CEO Mary Maertens presented council members with a biannual report on the hospital and the Avera Marshall Medical Group in the region. Maertens said making innovations in care will continue to be an important goal for Avera Marshall, as would meeting community needs for services like mental health care, specialist providers and services for aging populations.

Maertens summarized some of Avera Marshall’s successes and community activities. She said Avera Marshall has had “very robust” patient responses from the hospital’s short-term rehabilitation services, and the Morningside Heights care facility has received good ratings for quality and staffing. The Avera Marshall Medical Group has also expanded services in the region to include 25 health care providers in 12 specialty areas.

Revenues at have also grown at Avera Marshall in the past six years, Maertens said. Net patient revenues in the 2012 fiscal year were at more than $57 million, up from about $23 million in 2006, she said.

Maertens said the announcement that Avera Marshall plans to build a cancer institute has received a lot of positive feedback, especially from members of the public.

“I think it demonstrates the need in the region,” Maertens said. Construction of the facility, which would offer radiation and chemotherapy treatments, is estimated at $12.5 to $13.5 million. Maertens said some of the funding for the cancer institute will come from the proceeds of the city’s sale of the hospital to Avera.

Other business at Tuesday’s meeting included the approval of a bid for the next section of tree removal along Marshall’s flood protection levees. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has said the city must remove trees and vegetation from the levee system, as their roots could weaken the structure and cause it to fail.

The city awarded a bid of about $88,000 to Midwest Contracting, Inc., of Marshall.

Council members asked questions about the variety of bid responses. Jennie Hulsizer noted that two of the received bids were much higher than City Engineer Glenn Olson’s cost estimates of $90,000.

Olson said contractors had “variable perceptions” of what the project would involve. There are many variables involved in the project, from weather conditions to estimated completion dates. Olson said the award of the bid would also be contingent on other preparations for the work. Part of the tree removal will be on railroad property and will require contractors to work with a representative of the railroad, he said.

Olson said the Corps of Engineers was willing to work with the city on a time extension if needed, as long as the tree removal work was actually being done.

Council members also gave permission to advertise for bids to replace aging equipment at the Marshall wastewater treatment plant. Marshall Wastewater Supervisor Bob VanMoer said the proposal concerned the plant’s solids contact clarifier. Built in 1975, the clarifier is used to settle solid waste out of wastewater and remove phosphorus.

While VanMoer said the concrete tank and fiberglass cover for the clarifier were in good shape, “The equipment is beyond repair.”

VanMoer said the wastewater plant will be able to continue operating while the clarifier is replaced, although they will likely need to treat the wastewater for phosphorus. The cost of the project is estimated at $800,000.