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Albany Herald files notice of claims incurred during streetscape project

The newspaper is asking the city to investigate the issue to avoid litigation

A skateboarder passes The Albany Herald building Thursday afternoon on a portion of sidewalk that was part of a city streetscape project earlier this year. Construction associated with the project resulted in $100,000 in damages and costs to the newspaper, Albany Herald officials said. (Staff photo: Jim Hendricks)

A skateboarder passes The Albany Herald building Thursday afternoon on a portion of sidewalk that was part of a city streetscape project earlier this year. Construction associated with the project resulted in $100,000 in damages and costs to the newspaper, Albany Herald officials said. (Staff photo: Jim Hendricks)

ALBANY — Attorneys representing The Albany Herald and its parent company, Southern Community Newspapers Inc., have filed notice asking the city of Albany to investigate a sidewalk project that caused damages of more than $100,000 to The Herald’s office building at 126 N. Washington St.

Attorney Kenneth B. Hodges III of the Atlanta law firm of Rafuse, Hill & Hodges LLP sent a letter Thursday to Mayor Dorothy Hubbard, the Albany Board of City Commissioners and City Attorney Nathan Davis “providing early notice of this incident and of these claims so that the City of Albany can investigates these claims and avoid unnecessary litigation.”

The losses, Hodges said, occurred on June 24 in the midst of a project called the Pine Avenue Streetscape, which included about a half-million dollars worth of changes to the Pine Avenue sidewalk between Front Street and Washington Street.

Zane Grace Construction Inc., which was hired by the city to make the improvements, excavated the Pine Avenue sidewalk adjacent to the Herald’s offices.

During the construction, The Herald’s building was exposed, which caused water to enter the newspaper’s basement, covering the basement in sludge, dirt and other debris and compromising interior walls and structures, among other damages, Hodges said.

The flooding also damaged The Herald’s telephone system and a number of the company’s records stored in the basement.

In the ante litem notice filed by Hodges, he said actual loss to The Herald will meet or exceed $100,000.

“Not only did, and will, The Herald spend significant amounts of money cleaning up and repairing the damage, The Herald also incurred significant lost worker hours and wages cleaning up and dealing with the flooding, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs,” the letter said.

Hodges said The Herald is required to let the city know within six months of an event that it intends to file a lawsuit.

“We’re going to send one to ADICA (Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority), too,” Hodges said. The Herald cannot bring a lawsuit within 90 days to give the city time to investigate, he said.

“We’ve been in touch with the insurance adjuster (Tim Ford with Selective Insurance Co. of America) and he’s being unreasonable,” Hodges said. “It’s clear The Herald did nothing to cause damage to their building. It was the negligence of the construction company. … We want to make sure The Albany Herald is put back in the same position it was the day before the damage occurred.

“The only thing we are asking the construction company and its insurance company to do is fix the problem they caused. The insurance company has denied responsibility and say they are not going to do it. … We’ll take it to a courtroom and let the jurors of Dougherty County decide. We’re not going to throw up our hands and move on.”

Davis said he had received a courtesy call from Hodges notifying him of the action. Davis said he had no comment.

Hodges said The Herald contends acts or omissions of the city of Albany or its employees, agents and representatives, caused The Herald’s losses.

Hodges said the actions included:

— Negligent plan and design of the project;

— Negligent construction and supervision;

— Negligent inspection;

— Negligent failure to protect adjacent property from rain and other water during the course of the project and to warn of such danger;

— Negligent maintenance of the sidewalk, curbs and streets in the vicinity of The Herald;

— Trespass of property owned by The Herald.