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What can be done to protect Randall park?

Council hesitant to repeat flood damage

SOLON– What will happen to Randall Park?
Damage caused by the flooding of Mill Creek in April has rendered Randall Park unusable, and council members began considering options at a meeting last week.
The tone was not hopeful for a short-term solution.
Facing a minimum of $25,000 in repairs and the possibility of a $100,000 project to protect the vulnerable area, council members recommended the cancelation of June events at the park and its shelter.
City officials have already notified residents with May reservations for the shelter, and are attempting to help make alternate accommodations.
At the May 1 meeting of the Solon City Council, public works director Scott Kleppe recapped the flooding’s aftermath.
Both Kleppe and Mayor Cami Rasmussen extended their thanks to the community for the outpouring of support experienced after the extreme storm that dumped more than 5 inches of rain in Solon Wednesday, April 17.
“I just wanted to publicly acknowledge all the help and acts of kindness,” Kleppe said. “It was really inspiring.”
Randall Park, he said, sustained a lot of damage. “The most, probably ever.”
The park has experienced perennial flooding, but most of the previous events were limited to the loss of surface material.
“We’ve never had it scour out like it did this time,” Kleppe said. Water dug through 12 inches of mulch and 12 inches of sand, ripping up the underlayment. “There’s no way just to lay that back down,” he reported.
The surfacing materials for both the playground and the volleyball courts will have to be removed and replaced, he said, at a cost of about $25,000.
“If that’s where we want to keep Randall Park,” he added.
The shelter had been booked throughout May, and while those residents have been contacted, no action has been regarding dates in June.
“We need to figure out what we want to do because time is running out,” Kleppe said.
Does the city spend the money to repair the park in a year with an already-limited budget?
“I’m not for spending $25,000 to have it wash away again in another three weeks,” council member Steve Stange noted. “We’ve got a lot of rainy season yet to go.”
Council member Mark Krall suggested June events would probably also have to be cancelled, with more possible impacts on summer volleyball and the city’s summer recreation program.
“Is there another place where we can put a playground?” asked council member Ron Herdliska.
Other than the Solon Recreation and Nature Area (SRNA), which already features a playground structure, no, responded the other members.
“What about raising it up?” asked council member Brad Kunkel. “raising it up to the level of the parking lot?”
City engineer Dave Schechinger, who was on-site during the flooding, suggested a culvert downstream may have contributed to the backwater effect that flooded the park.
Attempting to correct it would have a price tag, however, and it doesn’t look likely that Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding will be available anytime soon, if at all.
Johnson County emergency management has advised all municipalities to proceed with repairs as if no federal funding would be forthcoming, Kleppe said. While substantial damage was experienced throughout the county, it may not be enough to prompt a presidential disaster proclamation which would release relief funds.
Schechinger estimated that engineered models of the water flow, necessary to determine any corrective measures, would cost $10-15,000, with any project costs additional.
“You’re probably talking about a $100,000 bill by the time we get done with it,” Stange said.
Kleppe said it would take about that amount to move the amenities to another location.
Another possibility, Schechinger said, would be to model a large portion of the creek, including other potential restricting areas, and use the information to address the problem spots over a longer term.
Either way will cost the city money it didn’t expect to spend, Stange said.
Krall asked Schechinger to provide a more precise estimate on the cost of studying Mill Creek, and Mayor Rasmussen directed the subject to be placed on the next council agenda.
Kleppe also reported damage to Sovers Street between Chabal Street and Racine Avenue where water rushed across the street, causing the shoulder to collapse.
The city’s wastewater treatment facility, threatened by the same waters that flooded Randall park, withstood the event, although it was manned for 24 hours and operated continually at capacity.
“The pumps were holding their own,” Kleppe said. “But we were backing up about eight feet.” That wasn’t enough to back up sewage into any homes, he said. The sludge return pumps, he said, clogged up with clothes and debris from the surge and had to be pulled and cleared at least 10 times.
The city is interested in hearing from any residents who experienced a sewer backup during the flash flooding event.