Engineering firm hired to investigate Peak Center flooding problem

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,041 views 

While engineers are still conducting a study on why Fort Smith Public Schools’ Peak Innovation Center flooded during a heavy storm March 23, the district has implemented measures in hopes of keeping more flood waters at bay.

District officials said the storm on March 23 caused flooding, which they discovered at approximately 8:30 a.m. March 24, at which time they immediately solicited help from a professional water mediation company.

Water primarily entered inside the front office area and seeped into the adjacent hallway and near classroom areas, a statement from the district said. None of the classrooms experienced damage, and all classrooms were operational by March 27. Shawn Shaffer, FSPS executive director of facility operations, said Thursday (April 20) it is early in the investigation process and the engineer is still collecting and evaluating data on the cause of the flooding.

“Soon after the heavy storm occurred on March 24, 2023, the facilities staff contracted with an engineering firm to determine the root cause of the water intrusion into the Peak Innovation Center offices,” Shaffer said. “The engineers are still in the process of rigorous testing at the site and have provided staff with several remedial measures to implement to prevent a similar occurrence from happening.”

FSPS hired HSA Engineering Consulting of Fort Smith which recommended the district check and ensure the control joints are sealed; hydro-jet the underground drainage; run a camera through the drainage lines to ensure structural integrity is intact; and excavate areas to ensure roof drainage is intact and functional. The contract with HSA was not to exceed $3,500.

Shaffer said the district has completed those measures.

“Additionally, the engineer recommended installing a new overflow drain from the existing storm box. We are in the process of implementing this recommendation,” he said.

Shaffer said staff is awaiting the engineer’s final report, which should identify the root cause and recommendations for permanent preventative measures. He said because of the extensive investigative process, administration does not have a defined timeline for when the final report will be finished.

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, Shaffer said at the time. That issue was remedied immediately, which allowed water to recede quickly.

A drainage project that includes an additional parking lot, 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.

“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.

At the end of March, design work for that project was 90% complete. After the design work is completed, the district will get a timeline for project completion, she said. That project, however, will not solve what caused the flooding in March.

“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.