LE MARS — An $8.2 million renovation project at Floyd Valley Healthcare was approved by the Le Mars City Council during its Tuesday, Oct. 3, meeting.

The project will expand and improve both the Maternal Health facilities and Laboratory, according to CEO Dustin Wright. It will be paid for with cash reserves, as well as with a $1 million capital campaign that will kick off in mid-October.

All expenditures over $5 million require council approval, and this received a resounding 5-0 vote in favor of it.

The Floyd Valley Healthcare Board of Trustees approved the project for the city-owned facility during its Sept. 12 meeting, he said. Work is scheduled to start in March and continue until August 2025.

Renovating the Maternal Health area will provide state-of-art care with new technology, as well as updated nursery and birthing suites, according to the healthcare website. Right now, the rooms are “extremely small,” but they would double in size, which will benefit both families and the hospital staff.

Wright said the Obstetrics Department will be relocated to where Patient Rooms 1-4 are at now at the front of the hospital. The patient rooms will move back to where Obstetrics is now.

“In a high-level basis, this project is really critical for our organization to continue growth to serve the community now,” Wright said. “But as we’ve heard in the proposed plan for the city, and anticipated growth for the city, we know and believe that families begin at Floyd Valley Healthcare.”

He said over the last three years, they have averaged delivering 100 babies, with a peak of 120 three years ago. This renovation will provide the needed services to meet that demand.

Wright also said it’s a matter of keeping up with the competition, particularly in obstetrics. This will help keep locals at home, he said.

One of the elected officials said the expansion was needed.

“I’ve had two kids there recently, and I’ll agree with you it does need an update,” Councilman Brian Bruns said.

“Sorry we didn’t get that done sooner for you,” Wright said, drawing laughter from the officials, who teased Bruns that it would be available for another child. He said that wasn’t going to happen.

The Laboratory also will double in size.

“Right now, it’s too small,” Wright said. “Our team is literally working on top of each other. We have little room for growth for new equipment.”

Wright said the hospital staff is very supportive of these expansions. They see it as a good opportunity and great addition for the community.

In other agenda items:

• An additional interchange on the city-owned rail line in Le Mars Industrial Park was approved. It is needed to facilitate continued industrial growth, the council was told.

It will be added next to the existing interchange just north of 18th Street and west of Van’s Sanitation. Design Nine Engineering of St. Louis will be paid $21,000 to perform a site survey and develop construction drawings. Burlington Junction Railway recommended hiring Design Nine.

The vote was 4-1. Councilman Mike Donlin voted no because the project was not previously budgeted.

• No one spoke during a public hearing on the proposed voluntary annexation of land south of the city limits.

There are three applications for annexation, coming from David and Marilyn Palmer, Russell Martfeld and the city itself. The city had already executed annexation agreements with the private property owners, and the council approved the annexation 5-0.

• The purchase of a stump grinder from Rexco Equipment for $70,699.20 was approved on a 5-0 vote. The funds will come from federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars. The city has about $870,000 left in that fund, the council was told.

This was needed with the expectation of removing hundreds of ash trees in the city due to the emerald ash borer, which has infiltrated Le Mars’ ash trees, according to City Administrator Jason Vacura and Public Works Director Brad Eppling. Vacura said efforts will be made to remove dying and potentially dangerous trees, while ash trees that appear healthy will be treated to extend their lives.

Eppling said the stump grinder can chew up the base of a tree in 10-15 minutes. In the past, the city has removed between 20-30 trees annually, he said, but that number will increase dramatically in the next few years.

• Vacura said the Plymouth Street water project is slowly making progress. Councilman Clark Goodchild was curious.

“What is going on there?” he asked. “Did we … burying bodies or what are we doing?”

Vacura said it’s proven to be a challenge.

“This might be the most difficult storm sewer intake anyone’s had ever built,” he said. “Seems like they’ve been working on that for a week and a half, two weeks. But they’re finally getting the grade prep to pour concrete back finally.”

• Mowing grass into the street seems to be increasing, Vacura said.

“That is against city ordinance, to do that, and it is finable,” he said.

Councilman Mark Sturgeon said it is dangerous for bicyclists, and Goodchild said he has spotted “clowns” doing it and reported that to Vacura.

Police Chief Kevin Vande Vegte said he has spotted it and warned people, but he has not passed that along to Code Enforcement Officer Luke Bernhardt. He will start doing so.

Goodchild said if people see the city is penalizing people for doing this, it might reduce the frequency of it happening.

• Sturgeon said the pump was not working at the tool stand on the Recreational Trail by AgriVision Equipment is not working. A man who has experience on the pumps could not get it to work, he said.

The part of the trail by the airport and dog park has a lot of gravel and rock on it from vehicles driving on or near it. Riders are asking for it to be cleaned off on a regular basis.

• Sturgeon said the intersection by Love’s Truck Stop, which does not have lights, is getting a lot busier and seems to be a potential hazard. He asked for increased attention to be paid to it.

Donlin noted this has been discussed before.

“It just keeps coming back,” Sturgeon said. “I think it’s just worse.”

• Mayor Rob Bixenman said his wife was in a traffic accident recently, and he was impressed by the “awesome service” provided by local first responders.

“I appreciate it,” Bixenman said.

• The council unanimously approved paying $2,204,308.55 in bills for the period ending Sept. 30.

• It approved adding a handicapped parking space on the east end of the Le Mars Community Theatre property on First Street Northeast.

• Councilman Steve Wick, who was enjoying the weather in Michigan, took part via telephone.


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