Fort Smith school officials discuss flooding of the peak

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The Fort Smith Public Schools Board of Education learned at its regular meeting Monday (June 27) that water from two springs was entering the district’s Peak Innovation Center during record rainfall on June 7th.

Shawn Shaffer, FSPS executive director of facility operations, told board members that possible solutions to prevent at least part of the problem are to design a 100-year peak flood plan that includes some or more of the following could: a retention basin; bypass system; diversion of roof drains to minimize contributing drainage basin; and emergency overflow.

When Peak was built, a 25-year flood plan was built in, Shaffer said.

Record rainfall in Fort Smith caused flash flooding in the city on June 7, June 8, and June 10. Severe storms in parts of Arkansas brought a record 4.58 inches of precipitation to the city on June 7. The previous record of 4.17 inches in one day was set in 1899. As of June 8, over 20 inches of rain had fallen in Fort Smith, making it the wettest city in the country compared to others that week, according to local weather reports this week cities with 50,000 or more inhabitants. Although June 9 was dry, further flash floods were reported during heavy rains on the morning of June 10.

Shaffer said in a Powerpoint presentation at Monday’s meeting that he was informed around noon on June 7 that the east parking lot at the Peak was flooded and a caretaker’s vehicle was submerged.

“En route, I noticed that the downstream storm drainage was extremely saturated, which initially led me to believe that the downstream drainage was causing the problem,” the report said.
Photos posted to social media during the flooding showed water almost over the building‘s doors. In the report, Shaffer explains that when he and others arrived at Peak, “the students who didn’t drive quickly moved to Barling Elementary. At this point, notifications of the students’ relocation were sent out to parents. Within 30 minutes, all students were removed from the facility.”

The report states that water has entered the center of the summit from the entire north side wall, the east side entrances and the south side main entrance. Shaffer notes in the report that Turn Key Construction Management, the construction manager at risk for the Peak project, was notified of the flooding and arrived on site to assess the problem.

“On the north side of the facility, water entered approximately (15 to 20 feet) inward for most of its entire length,” the report said.

On the east side of the facility, water seeped about 20 to 30 feet into the corridors, unfinished classrooms and common room, which are part of the second phase of the project and are unfinished at this time.

“Upon inspection of the north wall, it was discovered that the roof downspout where the existing pipe had been repaired had failed, causing a tremendous amount of roof water to enter the Computer Integrated Lab area along the fire wall,” Shaffer says of the report.

He noted that he had contacted Halff Engineering of Texas for possible solutions and was advised by Halff Engineering that the drainage system, as constructed, should be able to handle the event with some flooding in the east parking lot.

“When the rain stopped, the parking lot began to drain. Facility personnel worked after hours to begin removing water from inside the facility,” the report said.

In an email between Shaffer and Aaron St. Amant, SIT project manager at Halff Associates, Shaffer said he was notified by facility staff on June 8 that plywood forms were left in the junction box containing one of the 42- Covering inch drain pipes on property installed to help with water problems.

“There was another sheet of plywood in the junction box. It is believed that this plywood was also left in place and yielded under pressure,” Amant said in the emails.

Turn Key was informed about the plywood and called its subcontractor, Silco Construction, who built the stormwater drainage collection box, the email said. Silco Construction arrived on site to remove the obstacle. Silco employees worked for several hours to remove the plywood. They used a truck with a harness and a chainsaw to remove the plywood because the water pressure held the plywood in place, the emails said.

Both the district insurance company and Servpro have been contacted about the flooding. The district continues to work with Halff Engineering on possible future solutions, Shaffer’s report said. In a memo to Shaffer, St. Amant said the flooding was caused by construction supervision, documented with photos and video.

“Although this blockage was caused by negligence, we believe it is in the best interest of the school system to consider installing redundant measures that would prevent this from happening again should these pipes become blocked for other unforeseen reasons in the school system.” future occurs,” said St. Amant.

He notes in an email that Halff “will carefully evaluate the potential benefits of installing a detention pond to reduce the amount of water going to the newly installed 42-inch twin pipes. We can also look at the modeling of yesterday’s storm event with the plugged pipes to see if additional action could be taken in the event of a blockage in the future.”

Half’s material makes no mention of the roof downspout that “allowed an enormous amount of roof water to enter the Computer Integrated Lab area along the firewall,” which Shaffer mentioned in his report. Board member Matt Blaylock questioned this incident. He was told it was a separate incident when the water entered the building from the parking lot, although it happened at the same time. Nothing was said at the meeting about what had been done or would be done in this regard.

Shaffer said during the meeting he believes the one thing that needs to be done to ensure future flooding doesn’t occur is to “reroute the roof drains.” He didn’t say if this was to help with water coming in from the parking lot or the roof.

Because a study of what would be needed to fix problems at the center was ongoing, no estimate was available Monday. Superintendent Terry Morawski said he felt the district needed to conduct models under current conditions with the condition of the building as opposed to “historic conditions and a clogged drain”. Then the administration and the board could examine possible solutions and costs and the associated effects.

“We need to bring back solutions with data. Otherwise, we make assumptions up here,” said Morawski.

Board Member Phil Whiteaker said that after speaking to people while running for the board, it struck him that for every two positive things you hear about the Peak Innovation Center, there is one negative.

“Yeah, it’s going to cost money, but we need to fix this thing and we need to fix this thing properly. We don’t have to compromise. We don’t need any more conversation or negative publicity about such a beautiful addition to our school district,” Whiteaker said.

Peak, which opened on March 28, was originally scheduled to open on August 21, 2021. The $19.076 million regional workforce training facility was constructed from a donated facility at the intersection of Zero Street and Painter Lane in east Fort Smith. In February 2019, the estate of William Hutcheson Jr. donated the former Hutcheson shoe factory building at 5900 Painter Lane as a Peak site. The 181,710-square-foot building, located on nearly 17 acres at the corner of Zero Street and Painter Lane, was expected to save at least $3 million that had been budgeted to purchase an existing career center building.

Flooding problems weren’t the first time the center had faced water problems. Geotechnical and Testing Services, Inc. (GTS) of Fort Smith notified the Board on July 12, 2021 that there has been water migration from a higher elevation which was addressed by plans for grading and a drainage ditch in the original design. However, once construction began, a moisture problem developed under the slab.

The representative said the initial concern about water issues was raised by the general contractor when they began installing new piping and conducting slab cutting and excavation just before February 2021.

“Some water was forming in their ditches, so they saw some water for the first time and started investigating what the source might be,” noted a GTS representative.

This representative later said they encountered moisture in original ground drilling before construction began when a geotechnical survey was conducted in April 2020 using multiple drill holes inside the base and exterior of the building. Page 24 of a GTS geotechnical engineering report dated May 15, 2020, states: “Due to the impervious sandstone and shale cover anticipated to lie in the vicinity of the planned completed subsurface elevations beneath the future slab sections, we believe that the future base slab is likely to be will have high moisture content and relative humidity if on-site drainage is not successful. It is possible that the moisture within the existing or future floor panel section could cause problems with adhesives or flooring materials.”

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