Flooding Fears Stir Controversy at Cedar Falls School Board Public Hearing
A planned expansion of Southdale Elementary has some neighbors concerned about the possibility of flooding on their property and ultimately into Dry Run Creek.
Some families living near Southdale Elementary School are worried planned renovations to the school could lead to flooding in their basements and along Dry Run Creek.
They expressed their concerns during a public hearing at a Cedar Falls school board meeting Monday, Feb. 11, the same night the board voted to approve a bid on the renovation project.
Steffanie Bollwinkel said 30 years ago much of the land near her home at 3808 Southlawn Road was swampy. The city worked with her and other homeowners to address drainage concerns. Now, though she still sees some water in her basement, the swampy land is mostly dry.
But she and other families in the neighborhood are worried the planned expansion of the school's south parking lot could adversely effect how the land is drained.
Attorney Gary Jones is representing the Bollwinkel family, as well as the Larkin family of 3801 Southlawn Road. Both properties are on the south border of Southdale Park.
He complained having a public hearing on plans the same night the bid for those plans is approved ignored the point of a public hearing. He said it did not give effected families a chance to be involved in shaping the plans.
"This is really kind of a sham of a public hearing," he said. "These folks with some real issues were not given any opportunity to have input.
"We all want neighborhood schools, but they're kind of ignoring the neighbors," he said.
School board president Deon Senchina, however, said that was never the board's intent. She said in her 24 years on the school board, this was the first time serious concerns with a construction project were raised at a public hearing.
"We want to be good neighbors," she said. "It’s not over just because we continue with the bid tonight."
She told the residents they would be invited back to address their concerns directly with the civil engineer working on the project.
Project architect Dale Port of Struxture Architects presented the renovation plans Monday. He said he was blindsided by the drainage issue question, which was not something he was knowledgeable on.
He told the residents, however, that storage tanks would be installed under the parking lot to hold runoff water, and that by law all water must be kept on site.
"All that is monitored by the city and by the government," he said "It’s also monitored during construction."
Carol Toppin, of 3816 Southlawn Road, said she would like to hear from a water expert as well as the civil engineer. She said there is a series of creeks near the school property that drain into Dry Run Creek, and she's worried those creeks could be affected.
Superintendent Dave Stoakes said the school board wants to work with neighbors as much as possible.
'We have had times when neighbors have called before, and we work with them," he said.
The school board also held a public hearing on plans to renovate Hansen Elementary School. No one from the public spoke at that hearing.
The bid for the Southdale renovation went to Henkel Construction of Mason City, for $6,683,480. The bid for the Hansen renovation went to Cardinal Construction in Waterloo, for $2,090,831.
Construction on both projects could start within a few weeks, Port said.