City of Saline Has Second Conversation with IHA About Health Care Facilities

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Officials from the City of Saline continue to talk with officials from IHA about bringing health care facilities to Lot 20A, along Michigan Avenue on the city's east side.

In 2018, Saline City Council chose to sell the 6.5 acre parcel to GBA Development, LLC., after hearing proposals from both GBA and IHA.

At the time, IHA proposed a single-story, 11,650 square-foot health center that would have housed primary care physicians, urgent care, labs, X-rays and other services.

But IHA only wanted the front portion of the property. GBA offered to buy all 6.5 acres. Ultimately, the GBA plan fizzled out.

Now, as the city's health care task force continues its work to bring more services to the city, city leadership is talking to IHA about the same parcel of land.

"They are interested in picking up the conversation where we left off when council originally decided to go with GBA development," City Manager Colleen O'Toole said. 

O'Toole said IHA appears to be amenable to answering some of the concerns the city council had with IHA's proposal in 2018. Along with only purchasing the front portion of the property, making the back portion very difficult to market, there were concerns about IHA's non-profit status, which could also deprive the city of future tax revenue from the property.

Councillor Dawn Krause, chair of the city's health care task force, said early conversations show some synergy between what IHA wants to offer and what people have told the task force they want to see.

 "There are some things about what they want to bring that really match what the focus group data has been saying, and that was interesting," Krause said. "Urgent care - late hours - has been talked about a lot. I'm just really excited."

IHA and St. Joseph Mercy Health System are part of Trinity Health, a Catholic health care system based in Livonia.

Krause said that the health care task force will continue to speak with other providers of health services.

"We still have other organizations to speak with. St. Joe is not the only organization in the area and indeed their plan doesn't cover everything that we need. So, this is, by no means, the end of our task force, but a good start," Krause said.

Mayor Brian Marl reiterated the community's need for more health care services.

"This community needs additional health care amenities and services and it directly impacts our residents' quality of life," Marl said. "That, of course, was the genesis for why we set up and unanimously approved a health care task force earlier this year."

Marl said city leadership has had two meetings with IHA leadership. He called last Thursday's virtual meeting "upbeat" and "productive."

"I would say that their interest in the property and the Saline community, more specifically, is very strong," Marl said.

Marl said IHA has developed a conceptual site plan for the parcel.

"I think we're at the stage where we need to begin negotiating with them a sales agreement for lot 20A. Now we need to ensure that we get a fair price for that because it is a valuable parcel," Marl said. "We also need to ensure that there are certain conditions in place that ensure that  this community will receive a certain level of care for the foreseeable future."

Marl recommended that councillors Krause, Dean Girbach, Jack Ceo and City Manager Colleen O'Toole join realtor Tony Caprarese on a committee to negotiate a potential purchase agreement with IHA.

Marl said he hoped the group would have something to report by the end of 2021.

There are still hard feelings in the city about the way St. Joe's gradually closed the Saline Community hospital and then abruptly closed its emergency room in 2014. Some of that uneasiness was expressed at the council table Monday, as St. Joe's and IHA are connected by the same ownership group.

"There needs to be quite a commitment by the IHA organization based on their past history and performance within this community.

Councillor Janet Dillon asked if there would be a new market analysis done for the property. 

"Has that been explored  - the value of that property? Because it was price several years ago," Dillon asked.

O'Toole said that has not been completed. She said she was also going to ask Caprarese, the city's realtor, to price based on splitting the parcel.

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