Phoebe asks city of Albany for $858,000 fee credit for stormwater work the hospital did in 2006

The Albany City Commission tables the fee credit request for study

Phoebe Putney Health System representative Robert Preston asks the Albany City Commission for stormwater for credit during the commission's work meeting Tuesday. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

Phoebe Putney Health System representative Robert Preston asks the Albany City Commission for stormwater for credit during the commission's work meeting Tuesday. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

ALBANY — While the Albany City Commission voted to table a request by Phoebe Putney Health System to allow $858,000 in previous stormwater improvement payments to count as credit toward monthly stormwater fees being implemented in the city, City Attorney Nathan Davis said the request is not allowable under the city’s recently passed stormwater ordinance.

Phoebe’s Robert Preston told commissioners at their work session Tuesday morning that the hospital hoped to use funds it provided to help with the 2003-06 Second Avenue Basin/Third Avenue Outfall stormwater improvement project to offset costs of stormwater fees the city will start collecting in April.

“In the 1990s, we had a recurring problem with flood water around the hospital,” Preston said, indicating an area on an aerial photograph he provided. “At that time, we approached the city with the need to improve storm drainage problems that occurred during periods of heavy rain, but we were told there was no money in the budget for the improvements. Around 2003, when the hospital was planning to add to our cancer center, we came to an arrangement where we agreed to pay $858,000 of the cost to help with the needed improvements.

“Our engineer told us that around 11 percent of the work actually impacted the Phoebe campus, so we had a much wider impact than just the hospital. … We’d like to get credit for our contribution (to the stormwater improvements) as part of the (new stormwater) user fees. We’re not talking about other properties the hospital owns, just the area around where we made the significant contribution.”

Davis said that while the commission can indeed discuss Phoebe’s request, under the ordinance it passed requiring stormwater fees citywide, it could not grant the credit the hospital sought.

“The city ordinance does allow up to 50 percent stormwater credits for each entity, but this request, in my opinion, does not fit the criteria established,” Davis said. “Credits may be allowed only as they are written into the ordinance.”

City Engineer Bruce Maples said after the meeting the main Phoebe campus, under the city’s stormwater fee schedule, would pay a monthly $634 fee.

Before Ward VI Commissioner Tommie Postell offered a motion to table the discussion to give the board time to research Phoebe’s request, Ward I Commissioner Jon Howard asked a question of Preston that would be repeated by a number of city officials after the meeting.

“If we do this (for Phoebe), are there other entities out there that are going to make the same kinds of requests?” Howard asked.

Mayor Dorothy Hubbard said that’s a priority concern she’ll take into account while considering Phoebe’s request.

“I expect we’d have businesses from all over asking for the same thing (if the city OKs the credit Phoebe is requesting),” she said.

Also at Tuesday’s work session, Postell took a bit of the thunder out of Keep Albany-Dougherty Beautiful Director Judy Bowles’ annual report, which included notification of a national Keep America Beautiful first-place award given to the organization recently, when he noted that cleanup efforts had not reached portions of the city.

“While we appreciate the work that your group is doing, it’s still atrocious the way the city of Albany looks,” the Ward VI commissioner said. “Some parts of the city are not being kept up, and all of Albany needs a thorough cleaning. We’ve made some strides, yes, but the city overall is still filthy.”