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Park Rapids City Council OKs hospital bond issue

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Ben Koppelman

The Park Rapids City Council had a public hearing July 9 about a bond issue proposed by CommonSpirit Health (CSH) – a Catholic, nonprofit corporation that operates more than 700 health care centers in 21 states.

According to the resolution presented for the city council’s approval, CSH wants to issue up to $4.2 billion in tax-exempt bonds, of which up to $20 million may be used to finance or refinance their projects in Park Rapids.

Ben Koppelman, president and CEO of CHI St. Joseph’s Health in Park Rapids, said their parent corporation is merging with a large Catholic health system, Dignity Health, to form CSH.

“Essentially, what they’re doing is taking the debt of the two organizations and combining them,” said Koppelman. “I believe there is some additional debt that they’re financing as a part of this, as well.”

Koppleman characterized the resolution as a formality that needs to occur in cities where CSH has hospitals.

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City Treasurer Angela Brumbaugh emphasized that CSH’s bond issue does not affect the city’s tax levy.

The resolution states that, effective immediately, the city approves the bond issue; that the bonds will not encumber the city in any way; that CSH will reimburse any costs the city incurs connected with its approval; and empowers city officials to assist in preparing bond documents.

Council member Tom Conway moved to approve the resolution. The motion carried without dissent.

RDO wastewater treatment

In other business, the city council voted to extend an agreement with Lamb Weston/RDO Frozen that allows the company to maintain a city-owned wastewater treatment facility needed to operate its business.

According to the staff report about the item, the city helped RDO obtain financing for the facility’s construction in 1995, and to refinance the debt in 2010, which RDO paid off two years ahead of schedule in 2015.

Under the agreement, RDO also pays the city $20,000 a year toward the general fund.

The original agreement expires in 2025, but RDO requested an amendment extending it to 2039 with two optional five-year terms potentially extending it to 2049.

Plant manager Mic Ryan said, “We’re just looking for longevity – to make sure everything runs smoothly for the next number of years.”

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In a letter to the city council, Ryan noted that Lamb Weston/RDO Frozen has invested nearly $4.9 million in improving the facility during the past 24 years and plans to spend $2-3 million more during the next five years.

City Administrator John McKinney said the city engineer, public works department and his office all agree that extending the agreement is in the city’s interest.

Council member Bob Wills moved to authorize city staff to execute the amendment. The motion passed 3-0, with Conway abstaining and council member Erika Randall absent.

Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.
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