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The Hiawatha School District is working with the company that installed the track to take care of bubbles that have occurred due to water draining on the track.

The Hiawatha School District continues to look for answers with issues of bubbles forming on the new high school track.

In recent meetings, the Hiawatha School Board learned there were bubbles that formed in the surface of the track, which was built in the summer of 2018 at a cost of approximately $900,000. The company that laid the surface of the track — Beynon — has told the district that bubbles occurred due to water drainage from the hill on the visitors side. However, there are bubbles that have appeared in other locations, away from this area.

Beynon has said it will fix the bubbles, but only if the district fixes any drainage issues they perceive seems to be the problem.

At last month’s regular board meeting, District Maintenance Director Chris Morey told the board that he met with PJ Aller of Aller LLC, the contractor who performed the dirt work prior to the concrete work and laying of the surface of new track. Aller told Morey that during construction, a curbing from the old track was moved due to disrepair. Aller LLL connected underground drains, but there was no place to reinstall curbing with the new track — a joint decision between the district, Aller and Beynon.

Morey said that the dirt work had been completed to allow for proper drainage, however heavy rains caused some of that to break down prior to the track being laid. He said Aller said there were two options — to regrade the hill and drill in the grass, rather than reseeding it as normal — to allow for better drainage. Another option — which Aller said was the better option was to regrade the hill, reseed and drill the grass and install water drain boxes. The options would range in cost from $25,000 potentially up to $50,000.

Beynon said they will only honor any warranty work to fix the bubbles if the district completes drainage upgrades first.

Morey brought bids from Aller LLC and Knudson Construction to Monday night’s board meeting for their possible consideration. Aller LLC’s bid came in at $39,500 and Knudson’s at $30,500 to install six 12-inch drains that connect underground, complete the dirt work and seed grass. Aller’s projected date to complete the work was this coming winter and Knudson could get to it within the next 30 days. The length of time for the project is one week.

Board member John Wright said he was concerned the district was throwing money away on this project and noted that bubbles had occurred in the track in other locations — not just near this area where there is a possible drainage issue.

Superintendent Lonnie Moser said that Beynon has stated they will not complete any warranty work until this perceived drainage issue is resolved. The track has a 10 year warranty.

Board member Jeff Brockhoff asked if the work was completed by this winter on the drainage issue, could Beynon fix the bubbles in the track in time for track practice to start the first of March. Morey said that Beynon had indicated they could get to the work by March or April.

The board asked Becky Shamburg, who coaches track and cross country, whether she thought the track was usable as is for practice and she noted that one particular area could cause an athlete to trip and risk injury.

Board member Ian Schuetz said he felt that Beynon was trying to pass the blame.

“There are bubbles throughout and I don’t feel that is all just moisture,” Schuetz said. “I don’t buy it’s responsible for bubbles throughout.”

There was some discussion to re-evaluate the project for a potential lower price.

Wright said he felt the project had been rushed in the first place — that Beynon had rushed to get the track in and he wanted to take some extra time to consider all options before spending money on this repair. However, Moser pointed out they may not have time if they wait until the October board meeting if they are considering reletting bids. The typical process is 2-3 weeks and contractors could pick up other jobs before then. That could push any potential drainage work into December, depending on weather. If winter weather wouldn’t cooperate, this could push the final repair further out in the spring.

Board member Amy Kopp suggested contacting Matt Sprick with the Soil Conservation office to examine the area and make a determination if drainage is the real culprit. She said that’s his specialty and they may find that 12-inch drains aren’t required and be able to save some money on the overall project and still satisfy the needs to complete drainage work.

After amending motions made to seek new bids, it was the general consensus of the board to table any decisions until after contacting and getting an opinion from Sprick before moving forward. The matter is set to be discussed at the next board meeting at 7 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 26.

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