Coveted parking lot needs drainage plan

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The Sealy Independent School District board of trustees unanimously approved the hiring of a civil engineer consultant to begin design work and cost estimates for an athletic parking lot on the south side of T.J. Mills Stadium during a Jan. 18 meeting.

The district has a desperate need for an engineering consultant to help increase parking for sporting events hosted on their property.

For that to happen, the district must develop a thorough drainage plan for the future parking lot because managing water runoff from the site might be a problem.

The City of Sealy suggested the district use sheet flow to control runoff, or water flow over a surface as a thin, even layer that’s not concentrated into a channel. But, the Texas Department of Transportation will not allow that. For all purposes, sheet flow is considered illegal.

“So there’s some very real issues that we’re going to have to solve to create all of this new paving,” said Mike Zapalac, the district’s project manager. “Well, how do we manage the water?”

TxDOT representatives that Zapalac has spoken with do seem to be flexible on the other hand. They advised the district using a space on the north side of N. Circle Street (Loop 350) and Hwy 90 as a detention area. A portion of land in that area is owned by TxDOT, which dissects some of the district’s property. District leadership is in the process of gaining control of that area.

There’s also the possibility of offsets using green space where buildings previously stood that have since been demolished owned by the district.

“But the preliminary estimate is we still don’t have enough,” Zapalac told the board. “That’s part of the recommendation to hire an engineer to address this.”

An engineer could inspect the current drainage plan to scope out unforeseen advantages, as well as a traffic control plan and paving construction.

Zapalac submitted a request for qualifications from FSC, Inc. Frank Surveying is a full-service surveying and engineering firm out of Columbus, who has previously worked with the district. Kirk Lowe, a member of Frank Surveying, has worked for TxDOT in the past, Zapalac said.

It will cost the district $31,735 to hire a firm like Frank Surveying, but they can be used as a go between with TxDOT and the city to tackle various items and deficiencies the district is being asked to correct. They would provide oversight from the concept drawings to construction of the pavement, which allows the district to easily control the costs, Zapalac said.

“It’s a managed process and we’d get it moving because the football season will be coming,” he said. “Our goal is to do phase one on the west side, which doesn’t rely on that Loop 350 property, because that’s where all of the utilities are, that’s where it ties into TxDOT and so forth. So, if we go to the right side, we can definitely get that constructed.”

If the district goes that route, then they won’t have to rely on discussions and agreements with TxDOT and CenterPoint Energy. But, Zapalac told the board he is optimistic the district will eventually receive the Loop 350 property from TxDOT, so they still need to envision full build out for the project. It can be expensive purchasing land from TxDOT. Zapalac said the going rate in the Houston area is around $350,000 per acre, but hopes for less in Sealy, a more rural area.

The other option is to go out for bid, which is necessary regardless because costs will exceed $50,000, and have a general contractor submit a turnkey cost on the project from design through completed construction.

“I think, piecemeal, we’re going to get a better deal if we just advertise with a balloon,” Zapalac said.

“This is the better way of going, if the board is committed to this action,” he said.

A material decision for the parking lot surface has yet to be made. Asphalt is cheaper on the front end, but in the long run, with maintenance in mind, concrete may be the better bet, Zapalac said.

“Well, we’re in it,” said Creed Roberts, a Sealy board member. “I don’t know how you would go back. My fear would be that you pay $32,000 for a drawing, you’re going to go, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s going to cost a half million dollars (for the project).’”

Zapalac said they can request a 10 percent drawing bid. If reasonable bids come back, then the district can allow the prospective engineering firm to take the drawings out to 40 to 50 percent, and bids will be more firm at that point.

Board members debated when is an ideal time for the parking to be complete. Board President Ryan Reichardt said he expected it done last year.

“We didn’t need the parking spaces last year, but we will this year,” said Sealy ISD Superintendent Sheryl Moore. She also sees a green space in the middle of the lot for barbeque pits, picnic tables and tailgating.

“We might win some games,” Reichardt said, eying a turnaround season with the district’s recent hire of Shane Mobley, the new athletic director and head football coach who began employment on Wednesday.

The board, and many in the community, expect a return to prominence behind Mobley’s leadership and a packed stadium during football season. Now they need that lot complete to house visitor vehicles.

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