A flood of questions, answered.
Residents in the neighborhood adjacent to the Eugene Field Early Learning Center say they feel satisfied with the information they have received regarding concerns over flooding and stormwater drainage in the area, as a project to upgrade the school and improve parking moves forward.
Tim Lindemuth, president of the Eugene Field Neighborhood Association, said he and about 10 neighbors met with representatives of Manhattan-Ogden USD 383, the Manhattan city government’s stormwater department and BG Consultants on Nov. 5. He said they walked through several alleys and streets, pointing out problem areas and identifying places for potential improvements.
“We feel like the neighbors have been heard and listened to,” Lindemuth said.
A letter to the editor submitted by Sylvia Beeman to The Mercury in October expressed concern over water runoff issues from a heavy downpour in May, including a flooded parking area and overwhelmed storm drains. Clint Hibbs, principal architect for BG Consultants, said the project plan from his firm addresses these concerns, and includes underground stormwater retention areas under both playgrounds on school property. These retention areas will hold water runoff and let it slowly trickle out, instead of rushing out and flooding areas further downhill.
“As we delved into the project deeper, we found things happening upstream which were outside of the district’s control and outside of the bond’s reach,” Hibbs said. “One thing we’ve continued to communicate with the city is we’re absolutely focused on mitigating drainage issues on-site.”
USD 383 Assistant Superintendent Eric Reid said most of the water and flooding issues in that area are uphill from Eugene Field, and would fall under the city’s purview. Leon Brown, stormwater manager for the Manhattan city government, said there are drainage issues that are greater than what is near the school.
“There are some deficiencies in the city’s infrastructure in that area, and those will have to be addressed at some point in time,” Brown said. “There probably does need to be an upgrade to the drainage systems in the area around the school to meet current conditions, instead of coming back later and tearing up everything that’s been built.”
Brown said he has not seen the final design for those underground water detention systems, but he anticipates they will be available soon. As far as pass-through drainage is concerned, Brown said what engineers will look at replacing a couple of drainage inlets on the alleys from Leavenworth and Fairview streets, putting in new piping that’s more appropriately sized for the water flows, and connect it to the existing inlet immediately south of the school.
“The piping under Leavenworth Street is old, corrugated metal, and we’ve been identifying that this past year, and looking at eventually replacing that whole piping system,” Brown said. “We’re not quite sure how we’ll manage that, but we don’t want to create a problem downstream in the area of City Park and 14th.”
That project — as well as the current work being done along Poyntz Avenue — is part of the recommendations following a watershed study in 2016 which identified a series of major improvements needed in order to mitigate drainage problems across lower-lying areas of the city. Brown said engineers ordinarily start improving the lowest point, where all the water discharges, and work their way up.
“Some of the people who live up further may not see the benefit of these projects until we get improvements extended up into their neighborhoods,” Brown said. “Unfortunately, it’s not something that happens overnight.”
Brown said the city is trying to implement these improvements in a phased approach and hoped that Mother Nature would cooperate as these construction projects are carried out. He added that the city is in the process of developing new stormwater standards for future developments, which would take into account updated hydrology, localized conditions and bigger storm events in recent years. He said a change in these variables would be used for future designs, in terms of how the amount of drainage which passes through a given area would be calculated, and how to size the infrastructure to benefit. No timeline was given for a first draft of these updated standards.
Trisha Book-Fruendt, Construction Owners Representative for USD 383, said it would be a win-win if the city wanted to replace old pipes while the ground was opened for construction at Eugene Field. She said a pre-bid meeting was held, and the USD 383 school board will review those bids on Dec. 16.
Lindemuth said his neighborhood is the last owner-occupied neighborhood contiguous to K-State. He said a lot of the infrastructure in the area has been in place for a century — and now they are wearing out.
“Nobody here is really against the school or the improvements,” Lindemuth said. “We just want to be heard and be able to apply input, and that has been very good.”