Edmond flooding puts city officials in deep water
EDMOND — Property owners are so frustrated they demanded this week that no more building permits be issued in downtown Edmond until ongoing stormwater flooding problems are corrected.
Saeed Zahrai, head of XCESS LLC, wrote in a letter to City Manager Larry Stevens that city officials have “intentionally and willfully violated” the municipal code by permitting land disturbances that have created a public hazard on property within the city limits.
“This noncompliance practice must stop until the drainage problems, caused by the city of Edmond, are corrected,” Zahrai wrote.
Downtown property owners also crowded into a special meeting of the Central Edmond Urban District Board this week where a site plan for The Campbell, a mixed-use project, in downtown was recommended for approval. City council will make a final decision Aug 14.
“The room was full of downtown people at the meeting expressing concerns regarding drainage and flooding problems downtown," said City Planner Jan Ramseyer Fees. "They were asking for no more development downtown until the stormwater drainage project authorized in 2015 is finished."
Zahrai and his company sued the city in 2010, claiming that on or about Oct. 29, 2009, flood damage occurred on the northeast corner of Hurd and Broadway. Similar flooding has continued over the last seven years.
The lawsuit is still pending in Oklahoma County District Court. Randel Shadid, attorney for XCESS, said he continues to amend the lawsuit each time downtown businesses flood.
"I think they are just frustrated while water keeps lapping at the bottom of the door," Shadid said.
Koorosh Zahrai, vice president of business development of Plaza USA and Saeed Zahrai's son, alleged this week that the city “stole the money” originally to be spent for downtown stormwater drainage and parking improvements.
“There have been zero improvements,” the younger Zahrai said. “The city has absolutely neglected the storm water. Basically, they stole the money for Interstate 35 and Covell.
“This is a very important issue and we can't go on any longer.”
City officials disagree. They said they have been working on the downtown stormwater improvement project since September 2015 when the city council approved $2.6 million for the design work and construction.
”Any perception that this project is not moving forward is not true,” Stevens said.
The money is there and has been there since 2015, he said.
In May 2016, city officials approved spending $1.35 million of the $2.6 million downtown stormwater money for the remainder of the construction of Covell Road and Interstate 35 to Fairfax Boulevard.
“The downtown stormwater project was still in the design phase and wasn't going to be ready for bid by the end of the fiscal year in June,” said Assistant City Manager Steve Commons.
He said the entire $2.6 million was encumbered and was always in the 2000 Capital Improvement Sales Tax Fund.
“When we are ready to encumber the funds this year we will simply do a supplemental appropriation to access those funds in the current 2017-18 fiscal year,” Stevens said. “This is not a unique occurrence for us, as it has been done on numerous occasions.
“The time frames for construction projects do not always fall neatly into the original budget year.”
Cabbiness Engineering was hired to do the design work on downtown stormwater drainage on Oct. 5, 2015, for $126,305. The design plans for the project are almost complete, Stevens said.
“These will be finalized, with final quantities, once we receive the relocation plans from the utilities,” Stevens said. “Our people will have met with all these utilities to determine everything that is in the way of the new storm sewer.”
Utility relocation plans are to be submitted to the city in 60 days.
“Once we get those and expedite their approval, the relocations will start,” Stevens said.
Plans are to have the relocations completed and the project out to bid in January. Construction is estimated to take six to eight months, the city manager said.
The project involves the construction of about a half mile of new storm sewer, starting west of the AT&T building and going north, ultimately ending at the railroad tracks at Campbell and Edwards and draining into the downtown regional detention area.
The sewer now is a 42- to 48-inch clay pipe that is old and undersized. The new pipe will be fiberglass and at least 60 inches in size.
City officials warned that this downtown project is going to be “very disruptive” for services and businesses.
“Mr. (Steve) Manek said that this will be the most difficult project we have had to build in his tenure as city engineer, due to the limited space and all the disruptions that will occur during the utility relocations and the actual project itself,” Stevens said. “The project will proceed a block at a time. Sections of Campbell will need to be closed.
“Parking in the downtown area will be significantly affected — as one example, the parking in front of Pete Reeser's office building will be blocked off for a period of time.
“Our people are trying to identify as many of the conflicts as possible before construction, so the project will go as smoothly as possible when construction begins."