Grand Prairie seeks information about damaged schools

By Elizabeth Campbell -

June 24, 2014 05:44 PM

The Grand Prairie school district has filed court documents in Tarrant County seeking to take depositions from employees of the same architecture firm that designed the now-closed Allen football stadium after serious plumbing and foundation damage was found at two of its campuses.

The petition was filed in Tarrant County civil court last week because an architect who works for PBK Inc. and an engineering firm that approved a report about the ground where the two schools were built are located in Tarrant County.

The documents were filed in anticipation of a “potential” lawsuit.

Sam Buchmeyer, a spokesman for the school district, said in an emailed statement that the petition “is the culmination of a lengthy review to determine the causes of these issues and hold the responsible contractors accountable.”

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Buchmeyer also said sewer problems at Reagan Middle School and Seguin Elementary School were detected and repaired in 2009 and 2012.

“There are no existing sewer problems at these campuses and have not been for years,” he said.

Donna Range, a PBK spokeswoman, said in an email that the firm designed Reagan Middle and Seguin Elementary over 10 years ago in strict compliance with recommendations outlined in the geotechnical soil report provided by the district.

The repairs were not structural in nature, the statement said, but were made to under-slab plumbing lines damaged because of soil expansion beyond the criteria outlined in the soil report.

Don Penn of Penn Consulting in Grapevine, the engineering firm, could not be reached for comment.

In Allen, the football stadium, home to a state championship team, closed in February after a report commissioned by the school district pointed to “significant” flaws in the structural design. PBK also designed the stadium, which will remain closed for the 2014-15 season.

According to court documents, Reagan Middle and Seguin Elementary were built in the Eagle Ford Formation, an area well-known among construction firms for containing high quantities of soluble sulfates that increase the potential for “very high expansion heave” of the soil.

The Grand Prairie district built the schools after the engineering firm and PBK approved a report showing the condition of the soil and indicating that it could shift.

The ground shifted, and the foundations, plumbing and other areas of the schools sustained significant damage.

“In some areas of the school campuses, pipes separated, and in other areas, pipes were crushed,” according to court documents.

The district spent about $4 million on repairs.

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