Hospital’s lawsuit against county, town of Bridgeport continues

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Four years ago, the pond near Crossing Rivers Health was estimated by neighbors to be about two to three acres. Up until five years ago, neighbors say there was no standing water on the property. The Crossing Rivers Health Medical Center is in the upper right. (Photo by Megan Mahan of Adams Auction and Real Estate)

 

By Ted Pennekamp

 

The lawsuit filed by Crossing Rivers Health of Prairie du Chien against Crawford County and the town of Bridgeport regarding a growing “pond” by the hospital is continuing. On Aug. 15, Grant County Circuit Court Judge Craig Day granted an extension to the hospital until Sept. 16 to file responses to briefs. Day is the judge in the case because Crawford County is one of defendants.

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 on Feb. 21 and alleges 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’s property.

According to court documents, an oral ruling in the case is scheduled for Oct. 17 at 1:45 p.m. in Crawford County Circuit Court.

Listed as defendants are Crawford County, the town of Bridgeport, John Karnopp, Michael Steiner, Alan Flansburgh, the Crawford County Highway Department, former Highway Commissioner Dennis Pelock, project manager of TEAM Engineering, Inc., Travis J. Kramer, and construction company H. James and Sons, Inc. Rural Mutual Insurance Company is listed as an intervenor.

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

Crawford County filed a response to the lawsuit saying the county 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, 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.

There have been numerous claims, cross claims and counter claims filed in the lawsuit.

Area neighbors say that, up until five years ago, there was no standing water on the property. If there was a heavy rain, the property would have a small amount of standing water for a short amount of time.

Four years ago, there was a two to three-acre permanent “pond” on the property. Now the pond has grown to an estimated 15-20 acres and continues to gobble up farmland and encroach upon the hospital parking lot. The hospital and Crossing Rivers Health Clinic opened in 2015. The hospital, in the lawsuit, estimates the pond at 50 acres.

A high water table may be contributing to the problem. Also, when the hospital was built, a small retention pond was installed near the rear parking lot. The retention pond has no drainage system.

During a June 20, 2018 Crawford County Board meeting, then Highway Commissioner Dennis Pelock said the hospital should have built a detention pond like Nathan Plaza did that drains into the city sewer system. Nathan Plaza contractors also built its land up higher before beginning construction. 

In addition, the hospital parking lot is large and the hospital property has three roofs, including the hospital, Crossing Rivers Health Clinic and a storage building. When it rains, the water from the three roofs and the parking lot has to go somewhere.

The hospital claims:

•The Vineyard Road project resulted in the reconfiguration and alteration of the drainage and surface water flow in the area. Storm sewer and inlets were added to change the existing drainage pattern, water from properties extending as far north and west as Seymour Drive and Sand Burr Lane, which formerly flowed to the north side of Vineyard Road, was redirected to the south side of the road onto Crossing Rivers’ property.

•The former storm sewer system along Vineyard Road was a rural section, which allowed for natural infiltration of water. Post-project water, which formerly would have been absorbed, now collects in storm sewer pipes and is directed south of Vineyard at higher volumes with no infiltration.

•Additional alterations included the removal and replacement of a 30-inch culvert pipe, with a 16-foot by 4-foot box culvert (a 1,300 percent increase) with reinforced win-walls capturing and routing water in a southwestern direction to Crossing Rivers’ property.

•Prior to the project, water directed to the hospital’s property discharged at a rate of 100 gallons per second for a 100-year rain event. After project completion, water will discharge at a rate of 6,657 gallons per second for a 100-year rain event. The redirected water formerly flowed to Bridgeport Town Supervisor Michael Steiner’s property north of Vineyard.

•In March of 2016, Travis Kramer’s license was revoked by an administrative law judge more than a month before he signed the Vineyard Road project plans.

Crawford County played a large part in getting the hospital built. Crossing Rivers Health was able to obtain a low-interest $20 million loan from the state because Crawford County allowed the hospital to use the county’s borrowing capacity of $10 million per year for two years. Every municipality in the state, including counties, can get up to a $10 million loan from the state each year for capital improvement projects, if they so choose. Crawford County was not going to use their borrowing capacity, so they allowed the hospital to use it instead.

The hospital cost approximately $50 million. The hospital also obtained a $30 million low-interest loan from the United States Department of Agriculture.

 
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