Heavy rains can raise alarm bells for neighbors who live near Lawrence High School.
That's why Centennial Neighborhood residents have taken an interest in the school district's plans to overhaul the LHS campus and add artificial turf athletic fields.
"What we're really trying to encourage the district to do is to put a drainage system between property owners and their playing fields," said Sven Alstrom, whose backyard will be a few feet from a planned new softball field.
Their main concern is that a change to the landscape could escalate drainage issues, especially on land southwest of the school. If several inches of rain fall in a short amount of time, water builds up in a swale in that area.
School district leaders said new turf fields - including a possible football and soccer stadium - will have an engineered drainage system that will route water to the city's stormwater system instead of current grass fields. Later, the district also plans to separately fix drainage issues with the swale, said Tom Bracciano, division director for operations and facility planning.
"Without (this project), we probably would not be able to do these drainage improvements, and while we're here on site, we do want to be good neighbors, and we'd like to fix the problem," he said.
One major concern for neighbors is that the new stadium will be built before a solution is in place for the swale, Alstrom said.
Matt Bond, the city's stormwater engineer, said preliminary plans show the new fields would help route water back to the east, away from Alabama Street.
"I think this is going to be a good thing for the neighborhood, as far as drainage is concerned," he said.
A public meeting on the improvements will be at 6 p.m. Thursday at the LHS cafeteria, 1901 La.
School district leaders are waiting for audit results on a number of projects, including the LHS and Free State High School athletic field improvements. Instead of seeking a bond issue or capital outlay tax increase, the district is trying to finance improvements by using energy-efficient methods, such as putting down turf to save on mowing, watering and fertilizing.
Administrators hope to install turf fields at each high school - estimated to cost $2.8 million total - and be ready sometime this fall for football season. School board members will likely consider the projects at their July 7 meeting.
The tight timeline concerns neighbors because they don't want it to make drainage issues worse. Bracciano said the district is confident that won't happen, but he said administrators are also trying to time improvements to mesh with sports seasons.
Scott McCullough, the city's director of planning and development services, said the city must review site plans for each project.
"That made me feel really good that there's some accountability," said Tom Harper, a member of Centennial Neighborhood's steering committee.
The feeling seems to be mixed among neighbors. They are happy for LHS to have more fields on campus, but they're concerned about more people on school grounds in the evenings.
"We're concerned about the noise issue and the water issue and the light issue," said Joan Stevenson, who lives in the 2000 block of Alabama Street.
The school district has kept the lines of communication open, but neighbors still want to keep an eye on the process.
"I don't feel there's a rally cry to oppose this. It's more of a 'so be it, but don't do harm,'" Harper said.