Repairs to drainage system may cost HS $850,000

DALLAS, TX—As reported in The Dallas Morning News website May 29 in a story by Kathy Goolsby, the Cedar Hill school district may need to spend approximately $850,000 to fix a problem taxpayers paid almost half a million dollars to correct two years ago.

Standing water on the field has plagued the district’s $6.2 million Longhorn Stadium since it opened in fall 1999. In 2006, the district spent $480,000 to replace the drainage system and artificial turf.

By the time school officials realized water still was not draining from the field, the company that installed the new system had declared bankruptcy.

“The year after it was installed we had a drought so the system wasn’t tested, and by the time it rained enough to cause pooling, they had gone out of business,” said Mike McSwain, the district’s chief financial officer. “The contractor did have insurance, and they came out and looked at it, but they denied the claim.”

In addition to water problems, Mr. McSwain said sink holes are forming on the field, creating a safety hazard.

Cedar Hill ISD has hired McKinney-based Sports Design Group to oversee the new installation. Richard McDonald, a landscape architect with the firm, came up with the $850,000 estimate based on similar projects.

Sports Design Group will receive 6.25 percent of the installation cost up to a maximum fee of $55,000, according to Mr. McSwain.

Trustee Valerie Banks said she is livid over the failed fix.

“Spending this kind of money to correct something that’s two years old just gives me heartburn,” Ms. Banks said.

Alternatively, the system can be repaired for about $130,000, but Mr. McSwain said it would be a temporary patch that probably would only last two years.

Mr. McSwain said the 2006 fix failed in part because some of the drain lines were installed too close to the surface. The company that did the work used a steamroller to press down gravel covering the pipes rather than hand-tamping it, he said. That caused the pipes to collapse in several places.

Artificial turf is designed to last 10 to 12 years, Mr. McSwain said, but the turf will have to be replaced because it’s too difficult to re-align the seams. The two-year-old turf will be stored for possible re-use on softball and baseball fields.

Mr. McSwain said several factors have contributed to the higher price tag, including rising oil prices that affect shipping fees and materials cost. Artificial turf is a petroleum-based product, he said. There also is an environment fee for disposing of the petroleum base under the current turf.

“This also will be a more extensive fix than before,” Mr. McSwain said. “Last time we tried to rework the base and replace the drainage system. This time we’re going to take it up all the way to the base and start over from scratch.”

The district received three bid proposals this week from turf installation companies. Two are lower than the estimated cost and one is higher, Mr. McSwain said.

“We’ll check each one and make sure they’re based on the true scope of the work, then take our recommendation to the board on Monday,” he said.

Officials hope to complete the project before the first 2008 football game in mid-September.