Support has never wavered for the construction of the new Rolling Hills Nursing Home.
That’s the message from elected officials in the city of Sparta who want to keep the facility in Sparta. The Monroe County Board of Supervisors voted in January to move the facility to the 44-acre site of the new Tomah hospital, and a group in Sparta is challenging the vote, claiming the Rule 5 process that led to the vote is a violation of the state’s Open Meetings Law.
Sparta City Council member Jim Church said the city of Sparta has never stood in the way of the $16.5 million facility being built across the road from the present site. He said it’s a misconception that the council’s request for a water study is a roadblock, Church said.
“It’s just standard procedure for us for any building, and that should have been done anyway,” he said.
Sparta mayor Ron Button said the city was asked by the county for an agreement from the city to supply water to Rolling Hills. He said the council was willing but wanted the study done first to determine whether the booster station that supplies water to the present facility had the capacity to supply the water. The county paid $2,500 for the study.
Church said the city already has an agreement with the county for the existing facility; however, a new one had to be developed because it’s site-specific to Rolling Hills.
“We were just checking off the boxes we have to do when bringing new construction into the city,” he said.
The study determined that the booster station, already 25 years old, was appropriately sized to serve the existing facility, and it confirmed there was adequate water to handle the new facility, which will be 40 percent larger and slightly uphill, Button said. However, the reserve (or excess) capacity that’s desirable to have in case of contingencies would be limited with the present system.
“We recommended to the county that they might want to update the (booster station) when they build the building,” he said. “But it’s not considered necessary.”
Water and sewer are already available to the proposed building site in Sparta, Button said, and there’s no additional cost to supply water to the area. However, changing the location is going to cost money, but that’s up to the county.
“It’s all in the county’s ballpark,” he said. “The city of Sparta doesn’t need to do anything to facilitate the water. It’s there, they (could) start building tomorrow. (We) will have to extend sewer and water lines across Hwy. B because of the change of location, but they expect that, and that’s all the county’s expense.”
The city of Tomah has offered the county a $500,000 incentive package to locate at the hospital site on Gopher Avenue. The package includes water and sewer extension. The city plans to pay for the extension through a Tax Incremental Finance District.
Button said he wants to see Rolling Hills remain in Sparta.
“It’s been an icon here for ... 100 years, and I don’t want to see it move,” he said. “It’s really a part of our community, and I would really hate to see it move to Tomah. I’m very disappointed in the county board’s attempt to do so.”
The county board will hold a meeting Wednesday, March 28 to consult with Community Living Solutions about the cost of the Tomah project. The meeting had been scheduled for March 16, but Community Living Services requested more time to prepare its report.