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New Health and Wellness Center Plan Discussed

By Joe Morey

News Editor

The LCO Tribal Governing Board, tribal officials and other members of the community met with a team from the Shakopee Sioux Tribe regarding financing, design help and construction of the new health and wellness center proposed to be located at the corner of highways B and K across from the Sevenwinds casino.

The tribe is applying for Joint Venture Funding through the Indian Health Service (IHS) which would fund operations and staffing of the clinic for 20 years.

The presentation to the TGB on Thursday, January 17, included Tom Ranfranz, Shakopee Mdewakanton tribal liaison, and executives from Woodstone Builders and DSGW, an architecture firm.

Shakopee Sioux have lent in excess of $600 million for tribal projects and their tribal grants program gives $11 million to $18 m per year.

Ranfranz said the Shakopee don’t require it, but, recommends DSGW for the design team and Woodstone as the contractor because they feel they are the best. They have worked on many of their projects in the past.

“Chairman Crooks always trusted them, and they trusted him,” Ranfranz said. “We’ve had a very good experience with them and I’m proud to work with them.”

Ranfranz explained taking the loan through Shakopee, the tribe would pay 6.5% interest over the duration of a 15-year loan. He said some tribes choose to pursue a USDA loan that would extend for 40 years and provide the tribe a much better cash flow, but in the long run, will pay a lot more.

Randy Wagner of DSGW, stated that his focus for the design group is tribal healthcare.

“We’ve worked with over 30 tribes,” Wagner said. “We started out in the late 1980’s with the Fond du Lac tribe. We did their casino and before long we were doing their schools, tribal buildings, and their clinic. Eventually, we moved into designing clinics.”

Several nearby clinics DSGW designed include Bad River Clinic & Wellness Center, Red Cliff Clinic, Peter Christensen Clinic at Lac du Flambeau, and the Ne Ai Shing Clinic in Mille Lacs.

Wagner said the clinic they have designed that resembles the scope of LCO’s project is the Flandreau Santee Sioux Health Center in Flandreau, SD.

“The user population is very similar,” Wagner said. “Their clinic was based on a 3,000-person user population, and LCO would be a little more at 3,700 users.”

He also noted the LCO clinic would be similar to Red Cliff’s, which is a 34,000 square foot facility with behavioral health services, dental, clinical, imaging, laboratory, optical, physical therapy and pharmacy.

The tribal governing board recently announced it is applying for Joint Venture Funding through the Indian Health Service (IHS) to have a new health and wellness center’s operations funded for 20 years.

Rose Gokee, LCO TGB member and liaison to the health center, said if the tribe is funded for the new facility, “It will cover 20 years of operational expenses and the health center would continue to receive its annual IHS funding.”

Wagner explained that the IHS funding would be based on the total amount of full-time equivalent staffing. The tribal clinic would still receive its regular IHS funding and 3rd Party Billing revenue. “It’s basically supplemental income,” Wagner said.

Wagner said the staffing is determined by IHS through the user population formula and then they pay for the staff.

“It’s a no-brainer for lending. It’s a 20-year contract guarantee,” Wagner said. He said it works like this; LCO provides the land, construction, and we own the building. They lease the space for staffing.”

Ranfranz said the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe receives over $800,000 per year for their clinic under the Joint Venture Agreement.

“For the 20-year contract, IHS leases at no cost to you, the facility and land and agree to provide equipment, supplies and staffing,” Ranfranz said. He said LCO would need tribal funds, private sector funds, non-IHS resources, like loan guarantees, which would be the funding LCO may seek through the Shakopee Sioux loan program if the tribal governing board chooses that route.

Jason Weaver, LCO Secretary-Treasurer, said land needs to be designated for the new facility before the funding will get approved. He said acreage has been set aside on the northeast corner at the junction of Hwy B and K, across from the casino.

“The land must be designated early in the process to show commitment from the Tribe, but we can always move the designated location if the Membership wishes for a different spot. I just want to remind everyone that we need it to be located on the new waste water system and hopefully on the water system,” said Weaver.

A preliminary site plan for what the new health and wellness center and a grocery store on this property is available to view at the Tribal office, Weaver added. “This is just a simple site plan that can change as quickly as we need it too, but it is a great tool for reference.”

Weaver also said the plan could take three to five years for completion, depending on what the community would like to have in the new facility.

Gokee added, “It is envisioned that the new health center would offer expanded health services to the community as well as a wellness facility to combat health issues such as obesity, diabetes and heart conditions and promote overall physical health.”

A dialysis center was discussed as part of the new health and wellness center. Wagner said dialysis centers have never been included in Joint Venture Funding, but it can be added into the clinic plan, but its staffing wouldn’t be funded by IHS.

Wagner said dialysis clinics are expensive to build and expensive to maintain. He said, “There is a tremendous need for it, so it’s worth the discussion.”

Woodstone executives Paul Meyer and Doug Niesen made a presentation on their development projects in Indian Country, which include tribal clinics, community centers and casinos.

“We have a lot of experience working with tribes,” Niesen said. “We have experts on our team who will work with your tribe to achieve your goals and vision while respecting your sovereign status, leadership and tribal members. We make sure to get your people working on our projects.”

Niesen said the Red Cliff clinic project had over 70% Native workers.

Most recently, Woodstone did the new St. Croix Judicial Center in the old Hertel Express casino.


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