Taking the Reins: Neighbor, Boldt and ThedaCare Employees Learn From Each Other

Posted 17 November 2014 1:14 PM by TCAuthor3

By Dorothy Erdmann, CEO, Shawano Medical Center

Here at Shawano Medical Center and at Boldt, we knew the 18-month construction of our new ThedaCare Medical Center-Shawano out at County B and Highway 22 would have an impact on the neighbors. For starters, they’d see more trucks and hear more noise than usual, so we began to meet with the neighbors at the existing ThedaCare Physicians-Shawano clinic well in advance of breaking ground. Of particular concern to us was Gary and Donna Magee’s sprawling oval horse track just over the property line from the building site. Would our equipment spook the horses? Would we interfere with Gary’s work, teaching his animals to pull carts? How could we make all the changes (and messes) along the property line without frustrating Gary and Donna, whose family has operated the farm for three generations, well before the neighboring field was eyed for ambulance service?

Our worries were misplaced. Gary is a retired architecture instructor at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College and is proud to say that a couple of his students are now employed at The Boldt Company. He’s got a passion for construction—and an appreciation for what a new hospital will bring to his family’s community. He told me, “I’ve totally enjoyed watching the process over at the new hospital. I consider Boldt a top-shelf company and ThedaCare has gone out of their way to make this whole experience enjoyable.”

One time we had to remove several truckloads of topsoil from the construction site and were about to pay a hauler good money to take it away. Gary happened to be in need of soil to resurface his horse track, and when he inquired about the mounds of soil next door, we were more than happy to deliver and grade it for him. It saved ThedaCare a lot of hauling expense, and Gary got the dirt cheap benefits.

Matt Peterson, our project manager at Boldt, recalls the time that grading the ThedaCare side of the property line was going to cause Gary’s fence line to sit atop a narrow piece of land. Together, the two neighbors opted to remove the entire fence and re-install it at a lower level. By looking ahead, we avoided the possibility of Gary’s fence being washed away in a strong rainstorm because of the dramatically different soil levels.

Gary told us early-on that he expected his horses to adjust to the construction commotion and didn’t feel it was necessary to call him with updates about our work near his property line. Only once was he literally forced to take the reins. A Wisconsin Public Television producer was out on his farm with a crew to film his operation. The producer asked to drive the cart just as the crane boom started to turn out over the track. When Gary saw this, he quickly took back the reins, as this particular horse might have made for an exciting video clip. Instead, they just clipped right past.

Both Gary and the Boldt crews have admitted they will miss each other when the hospital is finished. Gary is a self-described “smile and wave kind of guy.” He’s learned as much from the crews as they have from him, building a real friendship across the fence. Every time I hear about Gary, his horses and our new hospital, I’m reminded that we live in a very special place, where neighbors help neighbors. What a privilege it is.