Stormwater at issue for Goodman, Neosho School District

·4 min read

Oct. 6—NEOSHO, Mo. — Stormwater flooding in Goodman has the attention of the city and the Neosho School District, but with differing perspectives.

At issue is a stormwater system at the newly rebuilt Goodman Elementary School.

Mayor J.R. Fisher spoke to the Neosho Board of Education during its meeting on Sept. 20 about flooding along Whitmore Street from the school northward to Garner Avenue, where water is pooling more. But during the meeting, members of the board seemed unconvinced that the school was the problem, based on information from designers of the school.

Fisher acknowledged that Whitmore and Garner is at the downhill end of a natural basin, so some flooding is to be expected. However, the new footprint of the school, rebuilt in 2019, has altered the direction of stormwater's flow.

"It all used to run down toward the west side of the school," Fisher said. "But when they built it back, they sloped it toward Whitmore. Then, everything used to collect naturally, but now, Whitmore is like a water cannon."

Whitmore Street has no curbs or gutters on the stretch between the school and Garner. It is a residential area. Just a few hundred feet north of Whitmore and Garner is the city's water treatment plant.

Destroyed in 2017 by a tornado, a new school building was constructed at the site and opened in 2019. The new school's footprint is slightly different, but not by much, said Superintendent Jim Cummins.

"We ended up moving more water from the west side to the east side," Cummins said. "That's why we put a retention pond in, to hold that water and release it a little bit at a time."

Before the tornado, the site had no significant stormwater handling facilities. The district added a retention pond at the northeast corner of the property.

John McNabb, a project manager for Sapp Design Architects, the firm that designed the school, said during the meeting that plans were given to the city in 2018 as a courtesy — the city has no codes or other mechanisms that required a building permit, he said.

The retention basin was placed at the northeast corner because that's the lowest point of the site, McNabb said. The goal for designers was to ensure that the site handled stormwater at an improved rate over an empty, green field.

McNabb said during the meeting that that goal was met, according to engineering calculations, and that the amount of rainfall that comes from the school site is a minor percentage of the city's flooding along Whitmore and Garner.

"That basin was built per industry standard," McNabb said. "If they are still seeing flooding, that tells me maybe the school isn't the issue."

Fisher said that the retention pond appears to be the reason for Whitmore's flooding. He contacted the district about the basin earlier this year. Cummins said in response the district installed steel plates on the basin's gate to further limit the water coming out of it.

That solution has not worked, based on Fisher's observations, he said. During a recent rainstorm that dropped about 2 inches on the city, Fisher said water appeared to be going over the banks of the basin, with water getting close to the side of a neighbor's house.

"If it was that horrible with a 2-inch rain, what do we do if we get something bigger?" Fisher said. "If that levee were to break, this town is done."

The two parties are at a standstill now. Cummins said the school district is in a holding pattern — during its recent work session meeting on Monday, Cummins said the city has not yet asked for a specific solution.

"If there is additional information, we can revisit it," Cummins said. "But until the city has some further information, we're kind of status quo."

Fisher said the city has received an engineering grant to investigate how stormwater flows in and out of its borders. The city hopes to work with the school district on a solution, he said.

"We want to work amicably with the school on this," Fisher said. "The school did everything it needed to do. This is just a small hiccup that needs to be addressed."

Follow Digital Editor Joe Hadsall on Twitter at @JoeHadsall.

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