Peak Center floods again, site engineers working on a solution

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,450 views 

Part of the March 2023 flooding inside the Peak Innovation Center.

Open for less than a year, Fort Smith Public School’s Peak Innovation Center has flooded for the second time. District officials said Monday (March 27) that a heavy rainstorm Thursday caused flooding at Peak.

“School officials discovered the water flow at approximately 8:30 a.m. Friday morning, and immediately deployed a professional water remediation company,” the news release said.

For the most part, water entered inside the front office area and seeped into the adjacent hallway and near classroom areas, the statement said. None of the classrooms experienced damage, and all classrooms were operational by Monday. A temporary receptionist station was set up to direct visitors until the front offices are restored.

“Servpro of Fort Smith continues working on the main office area, which will remain closed for approximately three to four weeks for repair work,”noted the school’s statement. “During the next few days, staff and insurance personnel will obtain water cleanup, damage, and repair costs. Additionally, the facilities team will work with a site engineer to develop a solution to the current problem.”

Flooding is not new to the building, which opened March 28, 2022, after numerous delays. In the most recent flooding, the storm caused a water intrusion into the southwest portion, or front office area, of the building. Record rainfall in Fort Smith caused flash flooding in the city June 7, June 8 and June 10 of last year. That incident caused flooding in the east parking lot of the facility. Water came into Peak Innovation Center during the rainfall June 7 from two sources, according to FSPS reports.

One cause of the flooding was 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.

A drainage project that includes an additional parking lot, which was approved by the school board in 2022, is expected to eliminate future drainage problems by raising the lower parking lot on the property and excavating the east field for a detention pond. The cost of the drainage work is expected to be about $1.1 million. Adding an additional parking lot is expected to cost $300,000. In December, Fort Smith Public Schools Board of Education awarded a constructor manager at risk contract to Conway-based Nabholz Construction for the project.

Flooding inside a Peak Center office.

“The Board’s action last Fall included additional engineering work to increase drainage capacity, ensuring the parking lot would not flood,” said Shari Cooper, FSPS director of communications. “The design work for that project is 90% complete. After the design work is completed, the contractor will be able to give us an estimated timeframe for completion.”

That project, however, will not solve what caused Thursday’s flooding.

“The board action taken last fall addressed a different drainage problem, which occurred at the northeast  corner of the site. The recent water intrusion occurred at a different location and was likely due to a different problem,” Cooper said.

At the time of the June flooding, Shaffer noted in a report that a roof downspout allowed “a tremendous amount of roof water to enter into the Computer Integrated Lab area along the fire wall.” Board Member Matt Blaylock questioned this incident. He was told it was a separate incident from the water entering the building from the parking lot, although it happened at the same time. That has not been addressed during discussions of the drainage and parking lot issues.

Peak 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 February 2019, the estate of William Hutcheson Jr. donated the former Hutcheson shoe manufacturing building at 5900 Painter Lane to be the Peak site. The 181,710-square-foot building that sits on almost 17 acres at the corner of Zero Street and Painter Lane was projected to save at least $3 million that had been budgeted to buy an existing building for the career center.

Flooding issues last June were not the first time the center has encountered water issues. Geotechnical and Testing Services, Inc. (GTS) of Fort Smith told the board July 12, 2021, there was migration of water from a higher elevation and that was addressed through plans for grading and a drainage trench in the original design. But an under-slab moisture concern developed after construction began.

Representatives said the original concern about water issues was brought up by the general contractor when they began work to install new plumbing and made slab cuts and excavation shortly before February 2021.

“They had some water develop in their trenches, so that’s when they first saw some water and began their inquiry about what the source may be,” noted a GTS representative.

That representative later said they had encountered moisture in original soil borings before any construction began when a geotechnical investigation using several borings within the building footprint and exterior was done in April 2020. Page 24 of a geotechnical engineering report from GTS dated May 15, 2020, explains, “Additionally, due to the impermeable sandstone and shale layer anticipated to be near plan finished subgrade elevations below the future slab sections, we anticipate that the future floor slab will likely have a high moisture content and relative humidity unless site dewatering is successful. It is possible that the moisture within the existing or future floor slab section may cause problems with any adhesives or floor-covering material.”