The Waunakee Board of Education has decided to make site improvements at Prairie Elementary School, following pressure from neighbors to fix the school’s stormwater-management problems.

Monday night, the board approved construction of additional drainage facilities at the school.

The action followed a recommendation from Rettler Corporation, whose engineer recommended that a berm and culvert be constructed to divert more surface water into the site’s retention basin.

“What that’s going to do is help minimize the amount of runoff that gets into the biofilter,” said civil engineer Chase Rettler, “and help minimize drawdown periods for water that’s drawing down through the biofilter.”

Rettler released bids for the project in October and received proposals from three contractors: Clemens Excavating, Parisi Construction Co. Inc, and Raymond P. Cattell, Inc.

Clemens Excavating submitted the lowest base bid at $46,361.

The company’s fee would be more than $20,000 greater than the estimated cost of construction provided to the district in August. Rettler said the increase was due to a Dec. 20 project deadline.

“The qualified low bid construction value is higher than the opinion of probable cost included in the Storm Drainage Evaluation Report presented to the Board of Education in August 2019,” Rettler stated, “due to the project schedule requiring (construction) in cold weather conditions.”

School-board vice president Dave Boetcher expressed concern over the timing of the project.

“I’m a little hesitant because this usually isn’t a great time of year to be playing with the dirt,” Boetcher said. “And we’re paying almost double because of the time of year we’re trying to do it. That hurts a little when we want to do something else.”

Board member Mike Brandt opposed the project altogether, pointing to a lack of proof that the 2015 additions to Prairie Elementary School caused the increased sump-pump activity in homes.

“I don’t feel like we have any evidence that the renovations at Prairie are what’s caused this in the first place,” Brandt said, “nor that any of these changes are going to fix them. And that’s a high price to, I think what was said at the last meeting is, ‘try to appear to be a good neighbor.’”

School-board president Joan Ensign disagreed.

“We have a responsibility to drain our property,” Ensign said. “I think we owe it to the neighbors. I mean, we’ve invested all this time and all this energy, and all these resources. I think we owe it to them to get it done.”

Superintendent Randy Guttenberg reminded board members of the reason they were discussing the school’s drainage issues at all, and why addressing them is in the interest of the district.

“This piece was really coming out of concerns from our neighbors,” Guttenberg said. “There’s no guarantee this will change the status of what’s happening with our neighbors. But it addresses us managing our water to the best capabilities that we have.”

The board voted in favor of Rettler’s recommendation, 6-1, to contract Clemens Excavating.

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