City hiring law firm to locate Smalley Park heirs (WI)

The Shawano Common Council on Wednesday approved hiring a law firm to conduct a search for the heirs of the estate that deeded Smalley Park to the city in 1901.

The site became home to Shawano Medical Center (SMC) in 1931, in spite of a deed restriction saying the property had to be used as a park.

With SMC planning to relocate, city officials hope the law firm of Davis and Kuelthau will be able to track down the heirs and get their approval to strike the park restriction from the original deed.

While maintaining the site as a park is still a possibility, the city wants to be able to consider other possible uses.

There was some question at Wednesday’s meeting as to how long the process of locating the heirs and clearing the title might take.

“This could be costly,” Alderman Bob Kurkiewicz said. “We don’t want this to become a bottomless pit.”

The agreement calls for the city to pay Davis and Kuelthau $245 an hour, plus whatever expenses the law firm incurs. The agreement lays out the likelihood that the law firm would have to engage other parties, including an attorney specializing in property and business law, at a rate of $265 an hour, and an estate planner, also at a rate of $265 an hour.

Should this turn into a court fight for some reason, the firm anticipates referring the case to another attorney at a rate of $300 an hour, according to the agreement.

There would be an additional cost for office paralegals, according to the agreement, at a cost ranging from $130 to $160 per hour.

City Administrator Brian Knapp said he expects it to be at least three or four months before the initial work of finding and contacting the heirs is completed.

“If it looks like we can’t accomplish this or it looks like we’re unlikely to, we’ll have to look at doing something different,” Knapp said.

The property now home to SMC was originally part of a larger property owned by Andrew Smalley and later became the possession of his widow, Susan, who donated a three-acre parcel to the city, according to a news article in the April 30, 1931, edition of the Shawano County Journal.

SMC purchased additional land for expansion over the years and now occupies about 10 acres. The hospital itself, at 309 N. Bartlett St., is 160,000 square feet.

SMC and ThedaCare, which merged in January 2011, are planning a new hospital that will be built as an addition to the ThedaCare Physicians building on County Road B in Shawano. About 14 acres are available on the east side of the facility.

Construction is expected to begin next summer and be completed in late 2014.

The hospital and ThedaCare have been working with the city on a plan for the future use of the existing hospital property, which includes not only the land deeded to the city but also the additional property SMC purchased over the years.


City hiring law firm to locate Smalley Park heirs
Process could take up to four months
Tim Ryan
December 12, 2012
The Shawano Leader