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Palmer balks at request for hospital land

Posted: Tuesday, August 05, 2003

WASILLA (AP) Plans to build a new $75 million hospital in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough have hit a snag with the city of Palmer.

At issue is a city land use restriction on five acres in downtown Palmer where Valley Hospital currently is. The city originally owned the land but gave it to the hospital in 1983 with a restriction that it be used only for a ''public purpose ... such as a hospital, or other related medical purpose.''

Valley Hospital officials have asked the city to remove that restriction, arguing it's a necessary part of the deal being worked out with Texas-based Triad Hospitals Inc. to build a new hospital.

But Palmer City Council members say lifting the restriction amounts to giving away public land for free to a private corporation. Triad, a for-profit hospital company with revenues of more than $3 billion a year, could then turn around and sell the property to the highest bidder, Councilman John Combs said.

Members of Valley Hospital, a nonprofit association, voted last year to approve a joint venture with Triad to build the new hospital. Under the deal, Triad would build a new 75-bed hospital to replace the existing hospital in Palmer, which has about 39 beds.

Despite the dispute over the land restriction, both sides said they are confident the conflict will be resolved. The City Council could ask either for an outright payment for the five acres or a guarantee that Palmer will get a potentially lucrative contract to provide water and sewer service to the new hospital. Wasilla is also competing for the contract. Both cities want to deliver sewer and water to the new hospital because extending the lines could allow them to expand city boundaries, taking in more land and more tax revenue.

The council plans to take up the request again at a meeting next week.



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