City and health care system continue to wrestle over property tax status


By Mike Warren

MARSHFIELD – Marshfield officials are involved in another dispute with the city’s largest employer, over the property tax status of two of its plots.

The Marshfield Clinic Health System is seeking tax-exempt status for its main building and its east wing at 1000 North Oak Avenue. The clinic made the request in January, which the city refused in April. The clinic responded with litigation soon after, and the two sides have had ongoing deliberations since.

The Marshfield Common Council held closed-door discussions regarding the claim at its September 14-21 meetings.

“You’ll probably see this (on the agenda) a lot,” Marshfield City administrator Steve Barg told the Hub City Times on September 15. talk about a development agreement, you might see it one or two meetings, maybe three at most, before you go out and act.

The clinic claims that both facilities are primarily used for hospital purposes and therefore deserve the exemption granted to hospitals under Wisconsin law.

Marshfield Clinic executive vice president and general health system counsel Jerard Jensen told city aldermen at the Sept. 21 meeting that the east wing “is a hospital. It functions like a hospital. And, over the next few months, anything that is not for hospital use in this building will be converted to hospital use. “

“This is the first major element of our $ 600 million investment plan to upgrade our Marshfield campus to upgrade it, so it can operate here for another 100 years,” he said. he adds.

For the project to work, Jensen said Marshfield Medical Center – the former St. Joseph’s Hospital – would need a major makeover, “and we can’t do that without having a place to put the patients that we have to pull out to do the remodeling. “

Jensen also told the board: “The first step in this project is to link the old hospital to the new hospital (the east wing), so that we can efficiently move these patients back and forth.

However, the clinic’s plans for the new walkway met with an obstacle when the Aldermen of Marshfield voted 5-4 at their September 21 meeting against an order that would have granted the clinic a lease for the use of the airspace over Oak Avenue, which is necessary for such structures under the Wisconsin statutes.

The denial came two months after council voted on July 13 in favor of the lease form. The clinic’s two existing gateways on Kalsched Street and Oak Avenue connect the main building to the Laird Center for Medical Research and the East Wing, and both are licensed under similar leases.

As for the fight against the tax exemption, the city has hired the Stafford Rosenbaum law firm, and these expenses are covered by the city’s insurance company.

There are a lot of issues for the city. The main building and east wing of the Marshfield Clinic are currently valued at $ 112 million. That’s about 7% of the city’s $ 1.6 billion worth.

The issue would end up in the circuit court if no agreement is reached, according to Barg.

Both sides resolved earlier debates over tax exemption with a “PILOT” or “payment in lieu of taxes,” in which the clinic paid the city a predetermined amount of money instead of annual property taxes.

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