CooperRiis sends letter to county

Published 3:20 pm Friday, July 6, 2012

Editor’s note: Following is a letter sent to Polk County commissioners on Monday, July 2 by CooperRiis Healing Community Executive Director and President Virgil Stucker requesting Polk County extend a water line to the facility, located in Mill Spring:
I am writing to ask your consideration for extending a water line along Hwy. 108 1,000 feet beyond the CooperRiis property line, a move which will enhance our safety by providing us with two fire hydrants.
We believe, beyond building a portion of the major trunk line already in your long range plans, this would have several benefits. For one, CooperRiis would be among your larger water customers with an estimated immediate need of 140,000 gallons per month. We plan to construct three new residences on the property in the next year, and this will of course increase our usage.
In addition, we are in discussion with Western Highlands LME and a national provider of psychiatric services about the possibility of locating a $1.5 million facility employing more than 40 people on property we own across Hwy. 108. The presence of public water would add to the case for this project, which is only in discussion at present.
On top of being a potential good customer, CooperRiis is already a major employer in Polk County, one with a low impact on county services. Currently CooperRiis employs 116 people in the Polk County area with a payroll that exceeds $4.8 million. Consider that we began in 2003 with fewer than two dozen employees! Since its founding in 2003, CooperRiis has become an internationally known center offering the hope of recovery from mental health challenges. We have served over 600 people over the years, almost half of whom received scholarships. Just last year, CooperRiis gave out $2.6 million in scholarships.
Further, the generosity to Polk County of CooperRiis’ founders, Don and Lisbeth Cooper, is worth noting. To establish the CooperRiis Healing Community in Mill Spring, Don and Lisbeth Cooper have raised $30 million, the large majority of which was invested in Polk County. But their generosity has extended beyond the CooperRiis campus to many civic and public causes in Polk County, with donations now exceeding $1.5 million in total. The following lists some of the recipients:
• The “CooperRiis Community Room” at the Polk County Public Library. (Total library donations have exceeded $450,000);
• The newly renovated Emergency Room at St. Luke’s Hospital;
• The 75th Anniversary Celebration of St. Luke’s;
• The St. Luke’s Hospital Palmer & Jervey Society;
• The St. Luke’s Hospital Registration and Waiting Area;
• The St. Luke’s Hospital Digital Mammography Project;
• The CooperRiis Barn at FENCE, (a $50,000 donation);
• The Tuba Christmas concert;
• The Hospice of the Carolina Foothills;
• The Mill Spring Fire Department, annual donations of $5,000;
• The Polk County Sheriff’s Department, $10,000;
• Pavillon International;
• Thermal Belt Outreach Ministries, a $100,000 donation.
In conclusion, for safety purposes, CooperRiis respectfully requests that the County extend its water line approximately 1,000 feet beyond CooperRiis’ westerly property line along Highway 108. This request has nothing to do with saving money on insurance premiums; at best our savings will be a few hundred dollars. Our request is an attempt to help us save lives if there were ever a serious fire. We have no incentive to hook onto the water line if it simply stops at our property line. Our current water supply is adequate. In fact, our expense for connecting to county water will be considerable.
– Virgil Stucker
Executive Director and President, CooperRiis Healing Community

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