Fort Smith school officials discuss peak flooding


The Fort Smith Public Schools Board learned at its regular meeting on Monday, June 27 that water entered the district’s Peak Innovation Center during record rainfall on June 7 from two sources.

Shawn Shaffer, executive director of facilities operations at FSPS, told board members that possible solutions to prevent at least part of the problem from happening again would be to devise a 100-year flood plan for Peak, which could include some or more of the following: a retention basin; diversion system; re-routing of roof drains to minimize contributory drainage basin; and emergency overflow.

When Peak was built, a 25-year flood plan was incorporated, 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 per day was set in 1899. By June 8, more than eight inches of rain had fallen in Fort Smith, making it the wettest city in the nation so far that week per compared to other towns with 50,000 or more people, according to local weather reports. Although June 9 was dry, further flash flooding was reported during heavy rains on the morning of June 10.

Shaffer said in a PowerPoint presentation at Monday’s meeting that he was notified around noon on June 7 that Peak’s east parking lot had flooded and a security guard’s vehicle was under water.

“Along the way, I noticed that the downstream storm drain was extremely saturated, which initially led me to believe that the downstream drainage was the source of the problem,” the report said.
Photos posted on social media of the flooding showed water almost over the doors of the building. In the report, Shaffer states that upon arriving at Peak, he and others “quickly transferred the students, who were not driving, to Barling Elementary. Notifications were sent to parents at this time of the students’ move. Within 30 minutes, all the students were removed from the establishment.

The report says water entered the center of Peak through the entire north side wall, east side entrances, and main south side entrance. Shaffer notes in the report that Turn Key Construction Management, the construction at risk manager 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 (15-20 feet) inward for the majority of its entire length,” the report said.

On the east side of the facility, water entered approximately 20 to 30 feet into the hallways, unfinished classrooms and community hall, which are part of phase two of the project and are not complete at this time. .

“During the assessment of the north wall, it was noticed that the roof downpipe, which had been repaired over the existing pipe, had failed, allowing a huge amount of water from the roof to enter the area. of the computer-integrated lab along the firewall,” Shaffer said in the report.

He noted that he had contacted Halff Engineering of Texas about possible solutions and was advised by Halff Engineering that the as-built drainage system should have been able to handle the event with predicted flooding in the east parking lot.

“Once the rains stopped, the parking lot started to empty. Facility staff 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 had remained inside the junction box, covering one of the 42 inch drain pipes on the property which were installed to help with water issues.

“Another sheet of plywood was also present in the junction box. It is assumed that this plywood was also left in place and gave way under pressure,” Amant noted in the emails.

Turn Key was told about the plywood and called its subcontractor, Silco Construction, which built the rainwater collection box, the emails say. Silco Construction arrived on site to remove the obstruction. Silco employees worked for several hours trying to remove the plywood. They used a truck with a strap and a chainsaw to remove the plywood due to water pressure holding the plywood in place, the emails say.

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

“Although this blockage was caused by negligence, we believe it is in the interest of the school system to explore the installation of redundant measures that would prevent it from happening again if a blockage of these pipes occurs for any other unforeseen reason in the future,” said Saint-Amant.

He notes in an email that Halff “will be looking closely at the possible benefits of installing a retention pond to reduce the amount of water flowing to the newly installed 42-inch twin pipes. We can also consider modeling yesterday’s storm event with the blocked pipes as they were so we can see if additional action could be taken in the event of a blockage in the future.

Nothing is mentioned in Half’s material about the roof downspout that allowed “a huge amount of water from the roof to enter the computer integrated lab area along the fire wall” that Shaffer mentioned in his report. Board member Matt Blaylock questioned the 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. Nothing was said at the meeting about what had been done or would be done about it.

Shaffer said at the meeting that he believed one thing that needed to be done to ensure no future flooding was to “bypass the roof drains”. He didn’t say if it was to help with the water coming from the parking lot or the roof.

Because a study has not been completed on what is needed to repair the problems at the center, no cost estimate was available Monday. Superintendent Terry Morawski said he felt the district needed to run models in current conditions with the state of the building, as opposed to “historic conditions and a blocked drain.” Then the administration and the board would be able to consider the solutions and the potential costs and implications that would entail.

“We have to bring back solutions with data. Otherwise, we’re making guesses here,” Morawski said.

Board member Phil Whiteaker said it seemed to him after talking to people during his campaign for the board that for two positive things he heard about the Peak Innovation Center, there was a negative.

“Yes, it will cost money, but we have to fix this problem and we have to fix it properly. We don’t need to cut corners. We don’t need to have any more negative conversation or publicity about such a great asset to our school district,” Whiteaker said.

Peak, which opened March 28, was originally scheduled to open August 21, 2021. The $19.076 million regional workforce training center was built from a donated facility at the intersection of Zero Street and Painter Lane east of Fort Smith. In February 2019, the estate of William Hutcheson Jr. donated the former Hutcheson shoe manufacturing building at 5900 Painter Lane as the Peak site. The 181,710 square foot building which sits 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 building for the career center.

The flooding problems were not the first time the center had run into water issues. Geotechnical and Testing Services, Inc. (GTS) of Fort Smith told the board on July 12, 2021 that there was water migration from a higher elevation and that was resolved with grading plans and a drainage trench in the original design. But a moisture problem under the slab developed after construction began.

The representative said the initial concern about water issues was raised by the general contractor when he began work to install new plumbing and carried out slab cuts and excavations shortly before February 2021.

“They had water forming in their trenches, so that’s when they first saw water and started investigating the possible source,” he said. noted a representative of GTS.

This representative later stated that he encountered moisture in the original soil soundings prior to the start of any construction when a geotechnical investigation using multiple soundings within the building footprint and outside was performed in April 2020. Page 24 of a GTS geotechnical engineering report dated May 15, 2020, explains: floor plan below future slab sections, we anticipate that the future floor slab is likely to have high moisture content and relative humidity unless site dewatering is successful. It is possible that moisture in the existing or future floor slab section could cause problems with the adhesives or flooring materials.


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