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Cass County approves private surgery and health care campus in West Fargo



Two groups including a for-profit, private practice “health care group” are planning a 90,000-square-foot medical facility and 30,000-square-foot ophthalmology center near 23rd Avenue East and the Veterans Boulevard corridor. The larger main medical office building will be home to the health care group and will be connected to the future project “OP medical group” ophthalmology center in the smaller building.

Although the health care group is working with West Fargo-based Enclave, Economic Development Director Lauren Orchard said the group is remaining anonymous at this time.

Due to a recent change in state law, all taxing entities must sign off on PILOT plans that extend past five years. The West Fargo School District unanimously approved the application on March 22, and the city of West Fargo approved it on April 5.

Austin Morris with Enclave said the group would not be planning the project for West Fargo if not for the PILOT program.

However, Cass County commissioners decided to table their vote on the matter April 5 after questions regarding whether the center would recruit jobs from existing health care facilities and the anonymity of the health care group were raised.

“It is rare to have an application this solid coming before me,” Orchard said Monday, April 19.

At the April 19 Cass County Commission meeting, Commissioner Rick Steen voiced concerned about open space reflected in the planned building, which would be available to tenants. Steen asked what would happen if the space is not rented out.

Orchard said the groups must develop to the minimum of what they propose, or nearly $27 million.

“If you build beyond that, you receive the benefits of improving and building beyond what you promised, and the community also receives the benefits,” Orchard said.

She said designs of the second, smaller building are not yet available because the first and largest building will begin construction first.

Orchard and Morris also stressed that the new facility would not be recruiting staff from current health care centers.

“They do not take employees from any other regional providers,” Orchard said. “In fact, they are so specialized, they often come from outside the metro area.”

The health care facilities will be the second-largest taxable development in West Fargo. The largest is The Dakota on Veterans apartment complex, which was built in 2015 and pays about $30 million in taxes.

Morris said building a state of the art health care facility will bring much more value than a large office building.

“If we were to build an office building on this property and have it assessed in a class A fashion, we’d be at half the real estate value,” he said.

The 10-year PILOT plan will allow the two companies to pay $100 on the improvements annually for five years, followed by 50% of the taxable base of improvements for the remaining five years. During the 10-year PILOT program, the health care group will still pay about $1.25 million in real estate taxes.

After the PILOT program, the health care campus is expected to add a $26 million investment to the city along with 203 jobs that will pay an average of more than $60,000 per year, Orchard said.

The developers will still pay taxes on the land value, or about $83,000 per year, and about $1.25 million in taxes will be paid over the PILOT’s term.

Morris said the facility would be staffed with unique private practice doctors who are also willing to run their own business.

“Other recruiting such as for nurses or CNAs, they recruit like any other business would in this space,” he said.

Orchard said the new jobs would be added gradually. About 57 base employees would start, and the centers would then grow to 203 over 10 years. Before approving the application, the West Fargo City Commission also created a requirement that the health care center could not be changed to a nonprofit facility during the terms of the PILOT program.

Specialties that will be found at the medical campus will include ear, nose and throat (ENT); orthopedics; ophthalmology; neurosurgery and spine; and plastics and hand. The building will offer hotel-style accommodations for extended-stay, out-of-town patients; an on-site pharmacy; ample parking with heated sidewalks; and a covered canopy for pick-up zones.

Commissioner Mary Scherling asked if building the facility could lead to recruiting specialties that are not currently offered in this area.

West Fargo Mayor Bernie Dardis and Commissioner Mark Simmons who also attended the Cass County meeting said it was likely that could happen once the buildings are up and running.

“Thank you for so many years of supporting West Fargo,” Simmons said.

Once operating, the medical group expects to see around 200 patients at the campus per day. Now that all entities have approved the application and contracts are signed, the health care group will be named by law.

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Health Fusion: Garden tip 1 for veggie success




As a health reporter, I’m always reading scholarly research articles. A quick journal search reveals an ever-increasing number of studies on the health benefits of gardening. But I knew that getting my hands dirty in the soil was good for my mind and body long before I started reading and writing about it. Gardening helped me cope with the COVID-19 situation, and now I’m a huge advocate of inspiring others to grow things.

I’m particularly excited about vegetable gardening and how it gets people to put more veggies on their plate. A study from the University of Michigan reports that kids who do gardening activities tend to up their intake of vegetables. And we all know that vegetables and fruits are good for our overall health.

In order to help you be successful at growing (and hopefully eating) vegetables, I have some tips that I’ll share throughout the season. Tip No. 1: Start with the soil. Plants get nutrients form the soil, and, just like humans, they need a healthy balance to grow. So before you add fertilizer, you need to know what’s already there.

In particular, you need to know the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the soil. The University of Minnesota, North Dakota State University and other institutions have soil testing labs that can analyze samples you send them. Then they return the results, which include recommendations for the type of fertilizer you should use, to amend the soil before planting.

Properly amended, nutrient-rich soil will help your garden get off to a great growing start.

Follow the Health Fusion podcast on Apple, Spotify, and Google Podcasts.

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Anita Bennett and Kelly King Horne column: Homelessness is a public health crisis | Columnists




Homeward ensured that the shelter program met U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines, secured additional private funding and helped coordinate public funding for the Pandemic Shelter.

As the pandemic evolved, so, too, did our system’s response to those experiencing homelessness. We adjusted procedures to adhere to the latest guidance and expanded the Pandemic Shelter to meet the expanded need.

So, what did we learn from the pandemic?

First, homelessness is as much a public health challenge as it is a housing challenge. Housing instability is a deadly proposition for a great many people and cuts short the lives of those who are experiencing homelessness.

Medical professionals and health care providers need to meet people where they are. That’s why in addition to its primary care, behavioral health and dental services from its physical locations, Daily Planet Health Services now offers mobile medical services to meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness.

This shift in approach also explains the success of our region’s vaccination efforts. Daily Planet has administered more than 4,600 COVID-19 vaccine shots to individuals experiencing homelessness and those who are working in shelters.

Second, we learned that shelter can be a lifesaving intervention. Shelter isn’t housing and it’s not a permanent solution. It’s one step toward stable housing, but it’s often a crucial step. Simply providing a safe space to stay temporarily saved lives.

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Shawnee Health Care’s Felicia Kimbrough says nursing ties in many of her passions | Special Sections





Felicia Kimbrough NP, DNP, has a nursing practice which is a little different than most.

As a nurse practitioner for Shawnee Health Care’s Terrier Care location inside Carbondale Community High School, her clientele, daily activities and role is unique.

“Terrier Care is literally inside the school,” the 41-year-old Carterville resident shares. “We provide health care to the students at CCHS along with all of the feeder schools as well as the families of those students, faculty and staff and their families, so it allows me the unique opportunity to literally be with my patients five days a week in the same building for years at a time. Many times, it allows me to know families, to know back stories and to really get to know my patients. I love it.” 

Kimbrough has been at Terrier Care for five years following positions at a federally-funded clinic in Louisville, time at Marshall Browning Hospital in Du Quoin and other roles with Shawnee. All told, she’s been a nurse for 20 years.

She says nursing combines many of her passions.

“I have always really loved science and I love reading and I love people,” she explains. “Nursing is a perfect bridge to all of the things that I love. I get to ‘do’ science every day; I get to talk with people every day and get to be a part of some great things in their lives.”

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