WCCS looks to ease floodwaters at high school

     In the wake of nearly $450,000 of flood damage to Columbia City High School earlier this year, Whitley County Consolidated Schools may plan survey work at the high school to see if changes can be made to drain the water faster.
     Changes to stormwater drain size and configuration may help the problem, but surveys of the topography of the land would be first on the list before any excavation would begin.
     The board of school trustees must weigh the benefits of paying $18,500 for the survey and study of drainage in the area before it decides whether to approve the work at its next meeting.
     For the person handling the bills from June’s flood, though, something needs to be done.
     “Doing nothing further isn’t an answer either,” said Tony Zickgraf,  business and operations manager for the district.
     Part of the problem with drainage could be the design of the stormwater system for the school.
     Pipes run along the south and north sides of the building and converge at the east end where the greenhouse used to stand.
     The two lines meet there and dump into a 24-inch pipe that drains east to the Blue River.
     By removing the sharp curves in the two lines where they meet the larger pipe, the water may flow faster and not deposit debris at the current bends in the pipes.
     The two lines would run in straight lines and connect farther east to the 24-inch line.
     Kelly Cearbaugh, superintendent of Columbia City’s street and sewer departments, said he felt that change would help with some of the school’s drainage problems.
     “There’s a possibility that could help,” he said.
     The size of the lines that lead to the larger pipe could also be an issue.
     Adding a manhole to the stormwater line east of the high school would also help with maintenance so the school could clean the pipe.
     Currently, there is only one access point along the entire line.
     Digging swales along the north and south sides of the property from the building to the woods at the east end of the property may also be an option to help with surface water.
     The school also experienced a backup of its sanitary sewer system in June.
     The line exits the south side of the building and does not have a flap on it that closes to prevent backflow of sewer from the line.
     When nearly five inches of rain fell in an hour in June, drinking fountains and toilets overflowed. That could be prevented with a backflow stop on the sanitary line.
     The school still has two more bills for cleanup to submit to its insurance company, but to date, every claim has been denied because the flood coverage clause was removed from the school’s policy.
     Zickgraf said he felt it was unlikely the district would be granted flood coverage again from its current insurance provider, or even a new one.