Lafayette County supervisors OK $51.5 million project to build new hospital

DARLINGTON, Wis. — Lafayette County supervisors this week approved a more-than-$50-million proposal to construct a new hospital.

The new hospital would be constructed on a 36-acre site south of Darlington off Wisconsin 23 and along Lafayette County K. It would span 75,000 to 80,000 square feet — about double the 38,000 square feet of the current Memorial Hospital of Lafayette County.

Supervisors voted, 13-1, to approve a resolution on the issuance of nearly $51.5 million in obligations for the new hospital and the purchase of land.

Eric Stauffacher, who represents Wards 4 and 5 in Darlington, cast the lone “no” vote. Supervisor Carol Korn was absent, and Supervisor Curt Malott did not vote. Malott was appointed at the meeting to fill the vacancy created when Mike Klein resigned last month.

Bob Boyle was among those voting in favor.

“It was the right thing to do,” he said. “We have a 70-year-old building, and the status quo won’t cut it when we compete with other regional hospitals who have all built new facilities in recent years.”

Boyle also said “building new” is the best solution as renovation would still leave the hospital in its 70-year old facility and landlocked, with parking continuing to be a problem.

“The projected low interest rates look great, and the hospital is projected to make the yearly payments on their own,” he said. “As with most worthwhile financial endeavors, there is risk, such as taxpayer involvement if the hospital somehow could not make the payments. However, the risk-reward ratio favors our county as MHLC is doing very well.”

Hospital Executive Director Kathy Kuepers said hospital administration researched this replacement facility for more than three years, bringing in consultants, holding educational sessions and sharing information with the community and the county board.

“Warren Buffett once said that someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago,” she said. “Tonight, Lafayette County supervisors planted that tree that will ensure generations to come will have access to quality health care.”

Reached after the meeting, Stauffacher said he voted against the resolution “because of the process we have taken to get where we are,” not because he is against health care, jobs or the revenue it brings to Lafayette County.

Stauffacher also said regardless of his vote, he stands by the county board’s decision.