AASD floats stormwater solutions for Mansion Park

The Altoona Area School District had a conflict with the city but came to a logical, though perhaps temporary, solution to the stormwater problem at Mansion Park, school officials said Wednesday.

Water backs up and causes the artificial turf at the park to bubble during heavy rain. Engineers discovered two buried manholes in the area of the tennis courts and Oak Lane that seem to have been causing the problem. The water pressure under one of them popped it off, Superintendent Charles Prijatelj said.

“When you are floating manhole covers at 80 pounds a pop, you have an issue,” he said.

The school district hired Keller Engineers at $19,000 to engineer a solution, but city officials put stipulations on the plan that the school officials couldn’t stomach.

“We crossed all our T’s and dotted our I’s, but in the 11th hour, after the project was bid, someone at the city changed the rules of the game,” Prijatelj said.

The Mirror attempted to contact the appropriate city officials, but calls were not returned. City Council also was meeting Wednesday evening.

Altoona approved the plan every step of the way — until the project went out to bid, district Physical Plant Director Doug Endler said.

The plan called for new pipes rerouting water around the park’s entrance with a few catch basins to slow the water before it flows to the Oak Lane area.

The city wanted the district to be responsible for cleaning the catch basins, Endler said.

“Most of the time that doesn’t happen. You build it and deed it over to the city. We don’t have the manpower or equipment to do that,” Endler said.

The “kicker,” Endler said was that the city wanted to be indemnified for anything that would happen in that area of Oak Lane because of the project.

“That could be ice on the road blamed on stormwater or a car accident in the rain … that was the point where it was too much. We are a school district not an insurance company,” Endler said.

So that plan, which cost the district $19,000 to engineer, was tossed out. However, the city gave the school district an alternative that is much less expensive to construct than the original plan, Prijatelj said.

It will save the district $250,000 on the construction cost, he said. But it’s not the most effective option, Endler added.

For a cost of $12,000, the district would replace 6-inch diameter pipe with 12-inch diameter pipe and raise the two manholes that were previously covered by earth and pavement near Oak Lane. In addition, the covers of those manholes would be replaced with grates so that water could gush out onto the surface if pipes are backed up.

Endler doesn’t like that plan because it would cause a fountain to gush from the grates during heavy rains. In addition, that substitute stormwater solution leaves in old pipes under what would be new construction at the tennis courts, Endler said.

The physical plant committee on Wednesday put the $60,000 engineering cost to relocate the Leopold tennis court, adjacent to the high school, to Mansion Park on hold until the board ultimately decides if it will move forward with a new high school building that would necessitate the demolition of the Leopold courts.

However, Endler said the $200,000 Mansion Park tennis court renovation is likely, regardless of the Leopold relocation, because all tennis courts at Leopold and Mansion would need a renovation whether the board builds a new school building or not.

Mirror Staff Writer Russ O’Reilly is at 946-7435.