Fort Smith School Board discusses Peak Center flooding, hears Vision 2023 update

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,001 views 

The Fort Smith Public Schools Board of Education want more information for possible solutions to flooding at the district’s newly opened Peak Innovation Center. Record rainfall in Fort Smith caused flash flooding in the city June 7, June 8 and June 10.

Water came into Peak Innovation Center during the rainfall June 7 from two sources, according to FSPS reports. On the north side of the facility, the water entered into the building approximately 15-20 feet inward along the majority of its entire length, the report states. On the east side of the facility, water entered approximately 20-30 feet down the corridors, the unfinished classrooms and the community room space, which are part of phase two of the project and not completed at this time.

On the north side of the facility, the water entered in approximately 15-20 feet inward along the majority of its entire length, the report states. On the east side of the facility, water entered approximately 20-30 feet down the corridors, the unfinished classrooms and the community room space, which are part of phase two of the project and not completed at this time.

One cause of the flooding was that plywood forms were left inside the junction box, covering one of the 42-inch drain pipes on the property that were installed to help with water issues, said Shawn Shaffer, FSPS executive director of facility operations. That issue was remedied immediately, which allowed water to recede quickly.

During a June 27 board meeting, board members requested more information on possible improvements. At Monday’s (Aug. 22) regular meeting Allen Deaver, project manager with Halff Associates, an engineering firm hired by the district, gave four possible solutions to flooding issues in the east parking lot, which could cause water to enter the building in extreme situations.

Option one would close the open channel adjacent to the lower parking lots with 42-inch pipes. The project was estimated to cost $190,000 and would bring the 25-year estimated ponding at low point from 2.3 feet to 1.7 feet and the 100-year estimated ponding at 3.6 feet. Option two would remove the 42-inch pipes and concrete line the channel. The project would bring the estimated ponding at low point to 1.3 feet and cost approximately $255,000.

Option three would remove the 42-inch pipes and the elliptical pipe and replace with double 10-feet by 4-feet box culverts. It would bring the estimated 25-year ponding at low point 0 feet and the estimated 100-year ponding at low point to 1.25 feet. Estimated cost is $875,000. Option four would raise the lower parking lot and excavate the east field for a detention pond. This would result in an estimated 25-year pounding at low feet to 0 feet and an estimated 100-year ponding at low point to 0 feet. Estimated cost, if the fill dirt excavated from the east field that would become a detention pond could be used to raise the parking lot, would be $1.1 million.

A fifth option would be to complete maintenance and clean up at the site including regrading/rerouting a channel on the east side of the property, cleaning silt from existing pipe, and concrete line some existing channels. This option would cost approximately $150,000, Deaver said. This option was the one recommended by FSPS administration, with Shaffer telling the board there would still be some pooling in the east parking lot during times of heavy rainfall, but that is to be expected.

“(The cleanup) should be done without coming to the board. We should clean all of that up. That’s not repair or building. That is ongoing maintenance of existing property,” said School Board Vice President Talicia Richardson. “I would like to see ongoing maintenance. Not once every 15 years, but what’s the maintenance schedule. Again, when we invest in our product, we need to make sure we are maintaining the product, not when there is an issue.”

Several board members expressed concern that standing water in the east parking lot, which was a truck well for the building in its original form, should be considered acceptable.

“This is our new shining star. This is what other districts, other schools are going to see. It’s a brand new facility. We need it to be in great shape. I’m in favor of spending more than the bare minimum to ensure that we don’t have regular pooling of water in one of our parking lots in this shining star,” said Board Secretary Dalton Person.

The board asked administration to look further into all options and costs and to report back on ways they could stop this issue from recurring.

Peak, opened March 28, was initially set to open Aug. 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 other business, Deputy Superintendent Marty Mahan presented a report to the board on the Vision 2023 projects completed for the district. With safety and security, technology, and capital improvement projects finished, FSPS has completed the Vision 2023 (V23) Strategic Plan with $390,000 remaining in the $134 million in total available capital improvement funds, administration said.

“We began this work to create efficiencies throughout the district, to make our aging school building safer and more secure, to increase classroom capacity, to expand technology, and to stand up a state-of-the-art, innovative career and technology center. We have accomplished this work and we have done so with our responsibility as stewards of taxpayer dollars at the forefront of our minds,” Mahan said.

Projects in safety and security included access control, the installation of secure entries, exterior and building site lighting, tornado safe rooms at the high schools and alarm upgrades. Mahan said the Peak Center is the result of the hard work and collaboration invested at all levels. Student success and economic growth and development are the primary goals.

“Fort Smith Public School is honored to work with area business leaders and the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith to provide the best opportunities for students who are interested in pursuing careers in Healthcare, Advanced Manufacturing and Information Technology for students in Fort Smith as well as students in 22 surrounding districts,” Mahan said.

The district is also working toward providing advanced arts programming in the next phase of development.

Renovations and additions at Northside and Southside High School maximize efficiencies that will benefit students, he said. A freshman center was built on each of the high school campuses along with new competition gyms. The new facilities made it possible to reconfigure the district grade structure. FSPS now operates with PreK through fifth in elementary schools, grades six through eight in middle schools and nine through 12 in high schools.

Barling, Cook, Morrison and Woods Elementary Schools and Darby and Ramsey Middle Schools each had renovations and additions that improve the existing spaces. The elementary schools were originally designed with open-space classrooms. Each now has permanent walls that restrict immediate access to a large number of students and gives all district students access to less distracting learning environments. Darby and Ramsey received necessary improvements that also created safer learning environments, including secure entries and additional classroom spaces, Mahan said.

Vision 2023 was initiated and adopted by the Board of Education in May and December of 2017. It was prioritized by the District’s Citizens Committee in early 2018. The Board of Education approved the set of priorities with minor modification and called for a ballot measure to increase the millage collected on behalf of the Fort Smith Schools in March 2018. The May 2018 election was successful with 62% of voters approving a $121 million increase in local revenue. The district received an additional $13 million from gifts and other funding sources making up the $134 million in total available capital improvements funds.