Archive for Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Water supply poses challenge to district

School district on fast track to begin planning for building

December 8, 2004

Time is of the essence.

Kris Roberts, project manager hired to oversee the school's building project, said Monday night at a special meeting of the Tonganoxie school board, city council and city planning commission that there is no time to waste.

"Our goal is to tap this project out to the streets for bidding this summer," said Roberts, who works for Turner Construction, Kansas City, Mo. "One of the reasons we asked to meet tonight is that it's very critical that we move quickly. ... It's got to be within the next four to six weeks. The longer we wait, the longer we hold up ultimately what we're doing."

The $25.3 million project approved by voters in November entails:

  • Building a new middle school for fifth- through eighth-graders on the district's 80 acres near Pleasant and Washington streets.
  • Remodeling and adding to the existing grade school to convert it to a school for kindergartners through fourth-graders.
  • Remodeling and revamping the high school and junior high into a high school campus for freshmen through seniors.

Highlights of the meeting touched on infrastructure needed at the site of the middle school. This included taking a look at sewer, water and roads.

Jim Ellerbroek, civil engineer with DLR Group, the architectural firm hired to lead the district through construction, said the school's sewer lines would hook into a forced main on East Street and then head north, connecting with the city's existing lines.

Ellerbroek said the city's water system is not adequate to serve the school's water needs, or to provide ample water for fire protection.

"The city system has some limitations," Ellerbroek said. "They may have trouble delivering what we need."

The city's engineer, Brian Kingsley, said that in the area where the school will be built, water pressure varies.

"At nighttime when the usage is down, there's not a water pressure problem," Kingsley said, noting that in the morning when usage picks up, the water pressure drops.

"The school needs to figure out a way to deliver a high quantity and a steady quantity of pressure to run the school," Kingsley said.

Kingsley mentioned the possibility of installing a water tower south of Washington.

And, the possibility of installing underground tanks that could hold water for fire protection was also discussed.

School board member Ron Moore asked whose responsibility it would be to install water tanks for the school's fire protection.

"With the bond issue, what did we set aside for those kind of things?" Moore asked.

Roberts said these issues had been taken into account in the initial planning.

Moore said he realizes more research is needed, including taking a look at the site for a water tower, if one is erected, and the water capacity needed, both for water usage in the school and for fire protection.

Butch Rodgers, Tonganoxie's public works director, noted that the decision is not entirely a local one.

"Also keep in mind that the state has the final say on what is required for fire protection," Rodgers said.

Traffic flow is an important consideration. The architect's original design showed two entrances off Washington Street. The western entrance was close to Pleasant Street.

At the suggestion of Gary Ditty, the county's public works director who grew up in Tonganoxie, this entrance has been moved 300 feet east. It is now in line with a cul-de-sac leading into a new housing development.

Concern was voiced about the difficulty of turning onto Washington Street from Pleasant Street where the visibility, to the east, is poor.

Roberts said the architects were looking at that.

"I think that DLR has addressed shaving the top of that hill," Roberts said. "... We're working on taking care of that."

And, those present discussed whether another city street might eventually cross the school property.

Everyone seemed to be in general agreement that, because it would split the school property and cause traffic concerns, 12th Street would be best left as is -- or perhaps made into a cul-de-sac where it meets the school's property. So, 14th Street, which would hook in at the south end of the property, might be a better alternative.

"Of the two, it would be much more acceptable to have 14th Street go through," Ellerbroek said.

Roberts asked if the district could authorize a traffic study. Superintendent Richard Erickson said the board could consider it Monday.

Although, no specific decisions were made, those at the meeting seemed pleased.

Kingsley said, "I think this meeting was really good as an overall organizational meeting."

School board member Rick Lamb reiterated Roberts' comments about not wasting time.

"Every year that goes by, we have to add two classrooms somewhere," Lamb said. "... We're just trying the best we can to get the school completed to everyone's satisfaction as soon as possible. If we keep seeing the enrollment increases like they've been, we're going to be stressed to get this done."

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