CLINTON — When construction began on the new Eagle Heights Elementary School in March 2006, Clinton School District Superintendent Randy Clegg knew there would be the usual problems that come with building a new school.

But Clegg had no idea he would be dealing with water runoff and silt that had made its way onto two properties neighboring the school.

During a recent walking tour of the school property, Clegg told the Clinton Herald the district is committed to fixing the issue but the city as well as the contractor of a neighboring subdivision also need to step up and remedy the issues that are contributing to the problem.

“It is our commitment to do what we’re suppose to do,” Clegg said. “Comply with the laws and regulations and hopefully make the situation better, not worse.”

Clegg said the district fully understand there have been issues and the school’s contractor has pledged to make it right. “We only have two properties that are directly impacted and we have to do some restoration work.”

One of the properties is owned by Drs. James Olney and Betty Hibler; the other is owned by Kevin Rockrohr.

“We’ve heard of silt in basements, but nobody has filed any claims,” Clegg said. “We have it set up with the insurance company... and if there are any claims our insurance carrier is going to directly take care of it. Not a single claim has been filed..

But according to local attorney Wylie Pillers, who represents both Hibler and Rokrohr, they are in the process of making claims.

“We are presently having our landscapers and engineers look at the project and determine what damage there’s been, he explained. “And when that is completed, we will be submitting the appropriate claims.”

The school is built on 33 acres — a hilly area that previously was corn and soybean fields. When construction started and all the vegetation removed, there was nothing to hold back the silt that flowed out with the rain water. The soil on which the school is being built has the texture of chalk powder.

“It dissolves very rapidly,” Clegg noted. “It’s called sand clay.”

The original plan called for four holding ponds: one on the south side, one to the north, behind the building, another on the east side and one on the southeast corner of the property.

According to Clegg, the intent of the retention ponds is to capture the rain water and slowly let it out.

“It doesn’t stop it,” he explained. “That’s the key. The water has always run this way. What we’re doing is slowing it down to avoid erosion and siltation.”

Clegg says two of the ponds are in good shape although the one behind the building is too big and will have to be made smaller. The problem pond is the one located in the southeast corner of the property. The concentration, or how fast the water goes into this pond, is the issue.

“This pond is primarily picking up water from the parking lot and the roof of the school,” Clegg pointed out. “Water gets to it within 30 seconds. When the pond was designed, it was based on calculations, as I understand it, that water could get to it in five minutes, which is a huge difference in concentration.”

Clegg says that runoff from the subdivision properties being built by Tegeler Construction is also filling the school’s retention ponds.

“These weren’t designed to handle the speed of the water coming off those roofs so this is an issue that has to be resolved,” Clegg stated. “Tegeler built a retention pond but it doesn’t hold any water. This is contributing to the problem.”

Earlier this year the school district and city partnered to hire McClure Engineering Associates of East Moline, Ill., to reevaluate the runoff issues. The report said that in terms of volume, the ponds were adequate but in terms of concentration, they were inadequate.

The report recommended the district contact the subdivision owner and the city engineer to solve the problem and share the cost of removing the sediment from the first flush channel adjoining the common property line.

Not a new issue

Clegg said the problems with water runoff is not a new issue to this area.

According to the “26th Avenue North Storm Water Drainage Report” commissioned by the city of Clinton and issued by Landmark Engineering Group, Clinton, in May 2003, the site just west of the intersection of North 11th Street and 26th Avenue North was studied to analyze stormwater patterns and flows along 26th Avenue North.

The project was divided into two drainage areas, the first, a cornfield (location of new school) and some woods and the second, a residential area.

The report states; “Storm runoff water flows from the cornfield toward the residential development. Once the water gets to 26th Avenue it is channeled south by means of a shallow swale... The swale along the rear lot line makes a sharp southerly turn and drains to 25th Avenue North... This turn is where the problem of controlling the storm water occurs. The swale is not adequately sized to handle the larger storm water runoffs.”

In a letter dated Oct. 29, 2003, addressed to City Engineer Steve Honse, Douglas Hinkle of Landmark Engineering stated “upon visiting the site and calculating the storm water data, we felt that improving the existing ditch along the rear lot lines would be cost effective and adequate solution.”

Clegg says that has not been done yet: “Neighbors are complaining because water is running down the street (26th Avenue North) but the water has always run down the street.”

In March, Clegg met with the attorneys, the land owners and the city. “The city said it was going to move the storm drains. They haven’t done that yet,” Clegg said.

“This is not a new issue.” he continued. “We certainly take responsibility for the problems to land owners we’ve contributed to, but when we are done with this project, we should not be contributing to any further runoff issues.”

“If there are other issues and other contributing factors, this problem existed long before this school even started. That’s the issue and I can’t fix that, and yet the finger keeps getting pointed at the school,” he explained. We can’t fix all of it. We can fix what comes off our property.”

Clegg says he is frustrated with lack of acknowledgment from the city council.

“These issues existed before... The neighbors will even tell you these problems have been exasperated with the development of the parkway and what they want is a solution to the problem,” he related

“I don’t disagree with them. I would want one too. We’re going to do everything we’re supposed to do and asked to do to control the water runoff from this school site, but we can’t be responsible for what other landowners and developers are or are not doing.”

The district’s solution

The two retention ponds on the east and southeast corner of the school property well be redesigned. The southeast pond will be deeper. “There will be engineered soils put in the bottom to absorb a volume of water and back this pond back into the (east) pond so we have greater capacity.” Clegg explained.

Then the contractors will install what Clegg describes as a “huge grease trap that the water will have to flow through before it gets discharged.” He said it will give the sediments one more opportunity to drop out.

According to Clegg, the estimated cost of the redesign will be approximately $20,000.

There will be vegetation planted around the holding ponds plus special water vegetation planted in the bottom which is suppose to help evaporate the water faster.

“With bare ground, water moves pretty fast, “Clegg noted. “Once vegetation is planted the flow of water will slow down.”

He added that once the project is complete, chain-link fencing will be installed around each pond for safety purposes.

The city’s role

On Thursday, City Administrator Gary Boden said the city and school district have been discussing the drainage issues for several months now and are in the process of determining how to solve the problem. He added that the parties involved are getting down to where the responsibilities lie and looking at solutions to the problematic water drainage at the site. He said McClure Engineering has completed an analysis of the area and will make a presentation to the City Services Committee on Aug. 30. Boden said that only preliminary details have been made available to city staff as of yet, but involved parties will have a much better understanding of the issue at that time.

City Engineer Steve Honse said Monday that the city is waiting for the school district to take care of the drainage issues and is not part of the on-site activities. He said the city currently is moving forward with storm sewer improvements that have been on the “to-do list” for four years and Honse said the improvements were moved up on the priority list due to the drainage concerns. The improvements include extending the storm sewers in the neighborhood to direct the natural runoff in the area.

Honse said that the problem is becoming more stable all the time and he thinks the school district is making substantial progress on the east side of the site, where the majority of drainage issues have occurred.

He added that the work to the west side of the property has been delayed by work on the roadway to the school, as it could take more time to complete.

“When you’re dealing with issues on a site of that size, it just takes time to get it all done,” Honse said.

Tom Tegeler, president of the Tegeler Van Buer Development, said he doesn’t feel the work on the Lundquist Eighth Addition is contributing to the drainage problems in the area. Tegeler noted that the on-site detention pond is large enough and functioning properly. He added that plans for the development were approved by the City Planning Commission and Honse and the company have complied with all requirements and specifications.

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