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Land at hospital site may be available to Stark County: Courthouse evacuated for possible gas leak

People wait outside the Stark County Courthouse after the building was evacuated Tuesday morning due to a possible gas leak. Everyone was allowed to return to the building after an inspection by Montana-Dakota Utilities workers determined there was no leak and it was safe to return.

Following a Stark County Courthouse evacuation over a possible gas leak Tuesday, the County Commission learned it may have the opportunity to buy back about 15 acres of land near the site of the new hospital.

Reed Reyman, president and CEO of St. Joseph's Health Center in Dickinson, told the Stark County Commission on Tuesday that the hospital would grade the land and make sure the property was ready to buy back if the county chooses to do so.

A presentation by Reyman and Leigh Hantho with Align Healthcare, who is serving as project leader, was briefly interrupted when the courthouse was evacuated for several minutes because of a possible gas leak.

Montana-Dakota Utilities workers arrived shortly after to inspect the building and everyone was allowed back into the courthouse.

When the meeting resumed, Hantho said the current plan is to have both the hospital and medical office building operational by mid-fall 2014.

Reyman said there will be about 25 physicians working at the hospital from the start, but there will be space for 40 physicians.

Hantho said the footprint of the hospital will be a little less than 100,000 square feet and the medical office building will be about 40,000 square feet.

He said plans include 420 parking spaces, a helipad location and room for future development of small medical office buildings, if needed.

"Empire Road will become an important avenue for emergency services and for staff parking," he said. "Whereas the public will access the site primarily off of 23rd (Avenue), Fairway (Street) and whatever the new street will be called."

Hantho said the city will have to decide how to rebuild Empire Road.

"It can't continue in its current location because it's too close to be stop-lighted or for the volume of traffic that will be on it," he said. "It could be turned into a 25 mile-per-hour street and come down to Fairway. Another option is to have Empire go back over to the bypass, but it has to come south of an abandoned well. That will ultimately be a city decision."

Commissioner Russ Hoff recommended that someone at the hospital talk with the North Dakota Department of Transportation to make sure that the DOT's plans for bypass construction not conflict with the hospital's plans.

Hantho submitted a plan to the city that lays out the property for multi-use and health care and potential multi-family residential housing.

"With the thought of what the county might do with the land it is planning on purchasing, I think it creates multiple opportunities to use it in any appropriate way," he said.