Hospital lawsuit discussed at Crawford County Board meeting

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By Ted Pennekamp


An update was given as to the status of the lawsuit filed by Crossing Rivers Health Hospital of Prairie du Chien against Crawford County and the town of Bridgeport during the county board meeting Tuesday morning.

County Attorney Mark Peterson said the lawsuit alleges that a road improvement project on Vineyard Road left about half of the 105-acre Crossing Rivers Health property permanently underwater due to changes in drainage, and as a result, the property’s value has gone down.

The suit was filed in Crawford County Circuit Court and alleges that the Bridgeport Town Board and Crawford County were negligent in the design, construction, supervision and inspection of the project that diverted surface water runoff from property north of the hospital, including land owned by Bridgeport Town Board member Mike Steiner, to the hospital campus.

The hospital is seeking a trial by jury, remediation and a restraining order against the rerouting of water toward Crossing Rivers Health property.

Vineyard Road was reconstructed in 2016, a project the hospital was in favor of at the time. In fact, the hospital had agreed to pay $100,000 towards the project to the town of Bridgeport. The hospital reneged on this agreement.

The lawsuit also names the Crawford County Highway Department, County Highway Commissioner Dennis Pelock, project manager Team Engineering Inc., and construction company H. James and Sons Inc. as defendants.

In a response filed last week, the county said it has not taken any remedial action and it is not legally obligated in any way to do so.

The town of Bridgeport and Crawford County have issued cross claims that state that in the event the court awards compensation to Crossing Rivers Health for damages, those costs should be paid by Team Engineering Inc. or Travis Kramer, the firm’s proprietor.

“It looks as though we could be in litigation for quite some time,” said Peterson at Tuesday’s county board meeting. Peterson told the board that it is his opinion that the contractual relationship regarding the road construction project is primarily with the town of Bridgeport.

In other business, Karyl Fritsche, soil conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, spoke to the board in giving recognition to County Land Conservation Department Head Dave Troester and Soil Conservationist Travis Bunting of the Land Conservation Department.

Fritsche commended Troester for his work on the county’s successful cover crop program that began five years ago even though, when he initiated the program, he was unsure of its feasibility or success because the county had never done it before.

Fritsched noted that the cover crop program has resulted in $1.05 million in federal funding being invested on Crawford County lands, 7,500 acres of cover crops being seeded into standing crops, 15,750 tons of soil loss reduced from entering the waterways, $80,000 set aside in a rollover account specific to additional conservation needs in the county, and $50,000 in contracts over multiple years to a private provider.

Of 51 counties across the state, Crawford County is the only one that can boast this kind of partnership and results, said Fritsche.

Fritsche said that recognition for Travis Bunting is also long overdue. She said Bunting has provided more than 5,000 hours of assisting survey, design, construction and check out of conservation practices.

“His efforts in the last five years has resulted in $1.6 million in federal dollars invested in engineering conservation practices on 5,392 acres in Crawford County,” said Fritsche.

In further business:

•Troester told the board that Crawford County will be part of a multi-county ground water testing program in an effort to get more well owners to have their wells tested. The other two counties will be Vernon and Richland.

•The annual CASA report was noted. The balance on hand for CASA as of Jan. 1, 2019 was $12,330.79. Unsolicited donations was $7,399.53, fundraising was $3,755, pet adoptions was $550, county license money was $3,019.33, “In Memory Of,” “In Honor Of” rewards, resale items and pay-back funds were $1,017.70, and special project funds were $5,000. Total income was $21,556.56 in 2018. Total expenditures was $21,779.23.

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