HealthFirst unveils stormwater management plan for Southland Drive clinic

mmeehan1@herald-leader.comFebruary 7, 2013 

HealthFirst Bluegrass unveiled a stormwater management plan Thursday that won't increase flooding risks for neighborhoods surrounding the $11.7 million public health clinic planned for 496 Southland Drive.

"The bottom line is that it's not going to be any worse," said Urban County Councilman Harry Clarke, who represents the area.

The plan was reviewed Thursday by Clarke, a small group of neighborhood representatives and representatives from the city's engineering department. A public meeting in the neighborhood will be held before construction begins. That date has not been set.

Mike Woolum of Strand Associates, which developed the stormwater plan, said highlights include four retention pounds, an underground containment system and keeping most of the trees currently on the site.

"It's an excellent plan," said Ken Cooke, secretary of the nonprofit Friends of Wolf Run Watershed, which includes the clinic site. He said his group did not get everything on its wish list, but HealthFirst went beyond minimum city requirements, which had been dubbed the "zero option."

Cooke said the HealthFirst project represents only a fraction of the 800 acres covered by the watershed, but it's important that a standard be set that can be applied to other redevelopment there.

Stormwater issues might have prompted a complaint to the federal government that has delayed construction of the project. Officials announced last month that the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, which is overseeing the project's grant, put construction on hold and required an environmental impact study.

HealthFirst executive director William North said the federal agency is not required to tell his public health group who filed the complaint or the nature of the concerns, but stormwater has been a hotly debated topic.

Tom Burich, head of HealthFirst's building committee, said the environmental study is under way. When it is completed, the public will have 15 days to respond to the findings. A public notice will be put in the newspaper, he said. Neighborhood groups and Clarke said they would alert their constituents when the commenting period begins.

HealthFirst, a nonprofit primary care clinic supported mostly through tax dollars, serves about 17,000 patients a year, many of them poor, at a clinic at 650 Newtown Pike. That clinic will continue to operate after HealthFirst opens the new clinic.

Mary Meehan: (859) 231-3261. Twitter: @bgmoms. Blog: BluegrassMoms.com.

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