City urged to find solution to tax dispute with health system
By Mike Warren
MARSHFIELD – A Marshfield couple is pleading with city officials to find a resolution to their ongoing legal battle with Marshfield Clinic over the tax status of its facilities along North Oak Avenue.
During the public comment period of the Sept. 28 meeting of the common council, Marshfield aldermen heard from Chris and Erin Howard of Park Street.
Chris Howard led off by saying, “I am here to remind everyone that the city of Marshfield depends on a strong, productive relationship with the Marshfield Clinic. Also, the success of the Marshfield Clinic depends on a strong, productive relationship with the city of Marshfield. You need each other. And as a community, we are counting on the city and the Clinic to work together productively and cooperatively for the good of Marshfield.
“Right now, there seems to be hurt feelings on both sides. If the challenges facing the city and the Clinic have to be solved in a court room, it won’t matter who is declared the winner. The relationship will be forever damaged. You will both lose, and so will this community.”
“It breaks my heart to see the two biggest players not be able to work together,” Erin added.
“I’m pleading with you guys. Let’s not be that community that just falls in to the stigma of all communities, where they don’t get along with players. Let’s put our pride aside. Let’s put our egos aside. Let’s be open, and make it a win-win for everybody.”
Howard added that she and her husband moved to Marshfield from Wisconsin Rapids 12 years ago “because of the clinic, (and) because of the downtown.”
Marshfield Clinic Health System is seeking tax-exempt status for its main building at 1000 N. Oak Avenue, as well as its East Wing at 1001 N. Oak Avenue.
In two separate letters to the city dated Jan. 22, 2021, Marshfield Clinic claims it is entitled to tax exemption because the two facilities are “used exclusively for the purposes of any hospital of 10 beds or more devoted primarily to the diagnosis, treatment or care of the sick, injured or disabled”.
Furthermore, the letter states Marshfield Clinic “is property of a public art gallerythat is used exclusively for art exhibits and for art teaching, for which public access to such gallery is free not less than three days in each week.”
According to the letter, “the city’s 2020 assessment included $61,858,400 of exempt property” (for its main building.) Accordingly, Marshfield Clinic’s refund claim is in the amount of no less than $1,543,844.84, plus any interest as provided by law.”
On the clinic’s East Wing, the city’s 2020 assessment included $50,161,200 of exempt property, and the health system’s refund claim there is in the amount of $1,251,898.33, for a total refund claim on the two properties of $2,795,743.17, for tax year 2020.
Marshfield Clinic had initially sent a tax-exemption request to the city Feb. 27, 2020, and the city denied the request May 18 of that year. Marshfield Clinic followed with a lawsuit, which was filed in Branch Three of Wood County Circuit Court on July 13, 2021.
Meanwhile, city records indicate the clinic had paid the amount in full as of July 31, 2021.