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2012-09-06

Seeking fix for 12th Street drainage problems

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Whether all residents of the City of Bandera would approve a bond election totaling $1.3 million to solve the drainage problems of six houses and three businesses on 12th Street remains to be seen.

During a special meeting on Thursday, August 30, city council revisited the topic discussed at length during a budget workshop on August 9. The drainage problems exist from Highway 173 North to Oak Street and are attributed to Texas Department of Transportation roadwork on the intersection.

$1.3 million & counting

To correct the city's most pressing drainage problems, consulting engineer Rudy Klein advised starting the project at Cherry Street to get a correct elevation then continuing to Oak Street, Highway 173 North and finally to 12th Street. Cement box culverts would be buried without open channels on 12th Street.

According to Klein, in the best of all worlds, the project would be completed in three segments at a cost of $1.3 million that would include purchasing the boxes, creating inlets at intersections and curbs, repaving the streets and doing utility adjustments.

Simply lowering the boxes on 12th Street would result in a massive water backup during a major rain event, Klein had said. "A lot of water comes off 173 and there's no room for a detention pond." Created in low-lying areas, detention ponds are designed to hold a set amount of water temporarily while it slowly drains to another location. Detention ponds are primarily used for flood control when large amounts of rain could cause flash flooding if not diverted elsewhere.

'Band-Aid' for area

However, during last week's special meeting, City Administrator Mike Cardenas said Klein had come up with a viable - albeit short-term - solution to the problem. He called it a "band-aid" for the area.

Klein advised installing concrete culverts now to carry the water coming off Highway 173 North. The culverts would be installed underground end-to-end without openings. The boxes would be six to eight-inches higher on the property owners' side of 12th Street and would need to be lowered to a proper elevation when the extensive drainage project was begun.

Cardenas asked council to approve the purchase of 25 concrete culverts at $800 each. Purchasing the culverts at this time would secure a lower price for the city. The current price would be in effect until Sept. 7, Cardenas said, adding, "We'll get a good deal if we buy them now."

The price of the culverts did not include installation, which would have to be done by an outside company. Cardenas did not know how much the installation would cost.

Don Clark suggested using underground pipes rather than concrete culverts.

"Rudy said to move that amount of water down the ditch, there is not enough right-of-way to accommodate the size of the pipes needed," Cardenas said.

Challenge to Klein

"I would challenge Rudy," Clark rejoined, suggesting that the ditches be sloped, pipes installed underground and a retention pond built to catch the excess drainage.

"You do not have the equipment to handle the culverts," Clark said. "You can move the same amount of water with pipe. You should consider an alternate way to move the same amount of water."

Clark referenced the success of plastic pipe that had been used in a drainage project on Oak Street when he served as city administrator in the early 2000s. "The plastic pipe was laid level and the pipes move more water than culverts," he noted.

In turn, Cardenas explained, "If an engineer designs a project, he's the one bonded for that project" - the connotation being the engineer would then be responsible for any failure.

If city officials override the engineer's recommendations, the city would be responsible in the event of a failure.

"If this project is not done, we will be looking at several lawsuits from residents," said Councilman Brandi Morgan.

Additionally, Cardenas pointed out that Klein had engineered the project to which Clark had referred. "And that work was done well before the TxDOT work on 173 that created this problem," Councilman Nancy Montgomery added.

Cardenas reiterated, "Rudy said underground pipes would not hold the amount of water coming off 173 now."

"And he came up with an alternative to alleviate the current situation," said Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Schumacher.

Klein's encore

In the end, council decided to have Klein re-present his plan during a budget workshop on Tuesday, Sept. 4.

If council approves the culvert purchase during a Thursday, Sept. 6, meeting there would still be time to order the culverts and take advantage of a lower price.

During the August workshop on 12th Street's drainage problems, Klein said the ditches dug in 2010 conveyed water through the channels instead of allowing it to run into the houses. "The channels now convey water to Mulberry and Oak streets," he said. "However the pipes crossing Oak Street are too small. You're putting 10 square feet of water into 1.5 square feet of space and back-ups occur."

Klein said administrators and officials were aware of the problem, but cost was a factor in previous attempts at solving drainage issues on 12th Street.

Thinking out of the box, Councilman John Hegemier commented, "It would be cheaper to buy the houses than do the $1.3 million project."

Throughout the city, drainage during heavy rain events follows Dry Hollow Creek. A tributary of the Medina River, Dry Hollow Creek meanders through the city and collects runoff from this watershed.

Klein said the drainage line goes across Main Street in the TxDOT right-of-way. "They will help the city get the line realigned from under Cherry Street and out in the highway."

No funds 4U

According to grant writer Margaret Hardin, currently no grants are available for drainage projects - just bonds and loans. "The money is less and less every year and the focus remains on water and sewer projects," she said. Additionally, the only way to access federal funds is to be declared a disaster area.

"For that amount of money ($1.3 million) the only solution is bonds," Hardin said.

"You can get those houses for less than $1.3 million," Hegemier reiterated. "I'm not sure the rest of Bandera would be happy about paying that much to solve the drainage problems of just a few families."

However, as Schumacher pointed out, "We just have to do better on 12th Street."