by Matt Marquardt –
According to plans shown to me Wednesday by a Forest Park resident, Mercy Hospital has altered its expansion project plans for an energy center and loading dock area on its north side.
A house that some say is historic, 63 Linden Drive, located on the corner of Linden Drive and 1st Street SW that was originally slated to be moved or demolished, now would remain untouched in the new plan, just unveiled this week.
Forest Park neighborhood residents are putting the pressure on Mercy and City Hall to change the expansion project or give it up altogether. They have a petition drive in motion at this time and they are circulating information to the neighborhood.
Forest Park residents have further expressed concern that the council has “already made up its mind” on the issue of changing zoning to accommodate the project.
One Forest Park resident told NIT this week that during a conversation about the project with Councilman Travis Hickey, he told her “this looks like this will pass.'” That resident also was troubled by a rumor she heard that city hall staff and council members had been “taken out to lunch” by Mercy officials to discuss the project. There is a $3 maximum allowable ceiling on any meal for elected officials in Mason City.
Today via phone, Councilman Travis Hickey said that if anyone went to lunch with Mercy officials “it wasn’t me” and that he had not heard of any such meeting taking place. City Administrator Brent Trout was out of the office and had no reply to an email asking about the matter, and City Planner Tricia Sandahl simply said “No” when asked if she knew about any lunch meetings with Mercy.
Hickey also said that “I have not made up my mind” as far as his vote goes, although he did say he would vote “yes” to allow the change of zoning at Tuesday’s council meeting. “This will be on first reading, and that doesn’t mean it’s a done deal,” Hickey explained.
Hickey advised any concerned residents to appear at the September 4th Council meeting at the library and to address the council on that agenda item.