Engineer Conversations
Updated: January 27, 2022

The church informally instructed me to contact engineers to see what it might cost to have them come out and look at our property. As I am not sure what engineers are supposed to do, I opened by telling them nothing more than we are in the process of paving our parking lot and some of the companies we had spoken to told us to contact an engineer. I then asked would they be interested in coming out to tell us what we needed to do and how much it would cost.

Daniel Mayfield 205-288-2111
Daniel was expecting our phone call as Brain Kennedy had told him we would likely be calling. He said he would call back later in the week to set up a time for someone to come look at the property.

Updated: 1/27/2022

Michael Rice (205-288-6510) and Matt

Michael and Matt came to look at the property in order to see firsthand what we needed from an engineer and what the cost might be. While they were here, we walked the area, and they asked questions and listened to understand what we have done and why we did it. They spend additional time answering my questions-which were many--as well. As we have not hired them or paid them any money at all, they did not have to do that. I liked and felt comfortable with them.

Please understand that everything written below is just idle conversation between myself and these two men. Nothing is official. No recommendations were given. I was just asking questions, and they were kind enough to give me some possible solutions. All we have asked them to do so far is to tell us what they feel we need them to do for us and to give us a price for that work.

They saw the pictures and the problem posted online and believe we will need to do something more than just pave the lot. To us, it may seem that paving the land should not increase the water problem, but at least two of the paving companies and both of the engineers I spoke to said it will. For example, Harold Vining told me months ago that some water actually crossed the berm (the raised land ridge we left between our property and theirs) last spring and asked us to add some dirt in places, which we did, in hopes of keeping it from happening again. But if we pave all the area we have staked off to pave, we will increase our parking/pavement area by approximately 15% over what we were using when the parking lot flooded last spring. That extended area WITH the smoother pavement of the entire parking lot will cause that water to hit the drains a lot sooner and traveling a lot faster than before, causing the water backup to begin earlier and last longer, causing the water levels in the parking lot to rise higher, causing even more water to go over the berm between our land and the Vining's, potentially doing water damage to his property for which we will be responsible. The bottom line is that we need to do something NOT to fix our current water problem, but to KEEP it from getting worse when it is paved.

In answer to my question of "WHAT?" Michael and Matt offered two possibilities. UNDERSTAND THIS IS NOT THEIR RECOMMENDATION. These are just some possibilities that they will consider IF we hire them to do a Pavement Design.

    1. We could put in some artificial underground water storage compartment's, essentially man-made cisterns. These are not buried very deep, maybe 3 feet, and go under the paved parking area so that we could add as many as we wanted. They do require maintenance, having to be flushed or cleaned out every few years. I believe this is the same type of underground system that Sain Associates mentioned when I talked to them. If so, it could be expensive, but was mentioned as a possibility.

    2. We could also use the space between the parking lot and the Vinings to add a narrow holding pond, maybe five feet deep, and rebuild the berm closer to the boundary. (The men discussed something like this years ago but ruled it out at that time.) We would have to put a fence up around it, and it would be an additional aggravation for our grass cutters to mow it, but their thinking is the additional space might allow the extra water a place to go to keep it from flowing over the berm into the Vining's property. We also discussed the possible need to make the holding pond bigger and what might could be done, but you should get the general idea.

These are the kinds of things they will look at IF WE HIRE THEM. Regardless of whether we hire them-or any engineering firm-that firm will be ethically obligated to make recommendations to us to keep our parking lot from adversely affecting our neighbors. Of course we do not have to follow the recommendations; but by making them, the engineers release themselves from liability if our parking lot does adversely affect our neighbors.

Concerning boring to take soil and foundation samples, Michael and Matt understand that we have been using the existing parking lot for decades and agreed that if there has not been any problem, such testing probably would not need to be done with one exception. Without the bore samples, we would not know how much gravel is under the lot. Some areas may have 6 inches, some less than 2. Yet, they understood and agreed that the risk of sinkage in those previously-used, highly-traveled areas is small. However, they did point out that the added 15% area has NOT been used for decades, and that it certainly would not be good to just pave over it. They said at the very least, the pavers should bring a loaded dump truck to roll test the lot (drive over every square inch of the parking lot) and any areas that proved to be soft (left tire indentions) would need to be dug out and filled in to the code set for a standard parking lot (6 inches of dense-grade base rock, 2 inches of asphalt binder, and 1 inch of asphalt). (By the way, the paving companies would still bring their big steel wheel rollers to compact the lot. The loaded dump truck is to test the parking lot BEFORE the roller is needed.)

We talked about handicapped parking, and I must have misunderstood a previous conversation I had with one of the pavers for the ratio is NOT 1 handicapped parking space per 90 parking spaces. It is more like one van-accessible handicapped parking space per 50 parking spaces and 1 handicapped parking space per 25; but the two in front of the drive through need to be removed.

This is the majority of the conversation I recall. They would like me to find and to send them our deeds and surveys so that they can make precise recommendations. After that, they will present a proposal to us sometime next week.

Update, 2/4/2022, EEFS bid

The person to whom I spoke said he had never heard of anyone calling an engineer to pave a parking lot. He said he had worked for paving companies and had never heard of it. I thought that was strange as I know we are not the first people in the world to contact an engineering company with paving issues. Since he did not ask if we had any problems with waters drainage or ground/soil conditions, I did not offer that information. I just thanked him and moved to the next number.

Sain Associates
(205) 940-6420
Darin Hammerick
I like Darin. He asked questions attempting to figure out what we needed. Apparently, there are several things an engineer company can do in paving.

When I told him the paving companies told us to call an engineer, he asked if we had water issues. I directed him to the webpage with the parking lot pictures and video and filled him in on our problems. He asked if we were looking for a solution to the water problems. I told him no, that we are the low spot in the community and outside of the restructuring the entire area, I did not think anything could be done to stop the water from coming to our parking lot. Throughout our conversation, he asked questions and listened to my answer trying to understand our water situation and what we had done over the years in combating it.

With that in mind, he told me:

    1. The water will shorten the payment-life expectancy. He said that concrete would definitely hold up better for our situation than asphalt.

    2. That there were things that could be done below the parking lot to help, basically an underground water system; but that it would likely cost $200,000-300,000, and he knew most churches could not do it. I do not believe he was talking about drainage pipes when he said this. By that time he said this, he knew that we had installed drainage pipes and also had been told that drainage bottlenecked in part because of the smaller drainage pipe that our lot drains into.

    3. That if we did ask them to come out, they would be obligated to make those kinds of recommendations, and it would be up to us whether we followed them or not. He was very friendly in saying this, and I think this would be more to protect them as he did seem to understand that most churches would not be able to follow those recommendations.

Having said that relating to the water drainage, he said they could do a topographic survey and a pavement design. I believe the topographic design would be the grading design to make sure the water flows well. I am not sure what the pavement design is.

Very rough estimates:
Topographic Design $3,000. Parking Lot Design: $4,000