Rockford hospital asks for city's help to address flooding concerns

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - "The water came probably right about up into here"

Eric Jones has lived in his Garfield Drive home for 60 years and says the June 18th flooding is the worst he's seen. "It rained so heavy and so quick it overwhelmed the draining system," said Jones.

Cindy Fisher lives across the street from Eric "This year it came right up to our sidewalk," said Cindy. She took photos of that June day which produced five inches of rain in four hours.

"My daughter-in-law was picking up the grand kids that night and had to drive down Kilburn and all the way back up. I told her not drive up Edgemont because the water was close to a foot deep," said Fisher.

Neither Jones nor Fisher sustained any damage, but the same was not true five doors down at Mercyhealth Javon Bea Hospital-Rockton Campus.

"That flooding came close to shutting the hospital down," said Mercyhealth Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Dorsey. "The Illinois Department of Public Health got involved"

With the help of 1,300 staff and partners, Mercyhealth was kept the hospital open without any threat to the patients. But with 30 million dollars in insurance losses from that one event, Mercyhealth contacted engineers at Fehr Graham "We went to them and said what can we do to prevent such a catastrophic event in the future," said Dorsey.

Fehr Graham suggested an 8 million dollar investment by Mercyhealth to repair campus drainage issues. But also recommended the city build a culvert to expand what it called the city's antiquated drainage system, at a projected cost of $6.5 million. "They said you've got a real problem. You not only get water from your campus but you get water from 250 acres getting onto your campus," said Dorsey.

"We want to be good partners," said Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara. "But our process is not third party saying you need $6.5 million."

McNamara says the city is willing to help but not on mercy health's time table, and not without proper vetting. "We are going to have to do our due dillegence because i report to 147,000 other residents. So i have to make sure that if we're spending tax dollars, we're doing it where it's needed the most."

McNamara said the received numerous calls for service from around the city as a result of the historic flooding that day. But no calls came from the area near the hospital's Rockton campus.

The mayor also says the city did an independent storm water survey in 2015, and the area near the hospital was not considered a high need area. "I think anyone who lives in Rockford knows we have storm water concerns in certain pockets of our community," said McNamara. "And if this one jumps over some of those other areas we need some well thought out and documented reasons"

As the two sides continue to debate options. Dorsey, wants to make clear that Mercyhealth's west side campus isn't going anywhere.

"We're looking at about a million patient visits to this campus every year," said Dorsey. "And we do not in any way shape or form intend to walk away from that commitment."

"We're happy that they are on the west side," said McNamara. "We want them to stay and we expect them to stay and continue to invest in their campus"