Budget McCaskey

School District of Lancaster Chief Financial Operations Officer Matt Przywara. 

Blocking construction of a new $17 million elementary school in Lancaster Township is a projected 113-foot tall, 3 million-gallon water tower.

Why — or how — that is remains somewhat of a mystery.

To help clear the air, School District of Lancaster will hold a community meeting tonight during which city officials will present updates and answer questions regarding the controversial water tower.

The tower, originally requested by city officials in December 2016, would be constructed next to a new Buchanan Elementary School on an empty lot next to Lancaster Community Park.

The Buchanan project, which is still in the design and development phase, reached a roadblock in August when city officials halted the project due to insufficient water pressure. The proposed water tower would provide the additional water capacity needed, officials said.

Construction of the tower, however, hinges on approval from the school district, which owns the land. Facing strong opposition from the community, the school board has yet to give the go-ahead.

“The school district has recognized that there are many unanswered questions. They realized there are a lot of people that are in the dark about the tower,” Lancaster Township resident Kate Lutz said. “They stepped up and saw that someone had to support civic engagement.”

Lutz is one of about 20 working members of a grassroots group called Friends of Lancaster Township Park. Members of the group, which started in 2010, have been staunch critics to the city’s proposal, mainly because of the group’s mission to preserve green space in the township.

“It would erode the quality of the open space we have left,” Lutz said, adding that the tower — expected to be two-thirds the size of Lancaster city’s Griest Building — will literally cast a shadow on the township.

“If we keep picking away at (open space),” she said, “what happens to this neighborhood 30 to 40 years from now?”

At this point, the Buchanan project remains at a standstill, Matt Przywara, the district’s chief financial and operations officer, said. The water tower has delayed construction, which was originally supposed to begin this summer.

The district has already spent about $300,000 — nearly 2 percent of the total cost — on the estimated 60,000-square-foot school, according to Przywara.

A decision is expected to be made on the water tower no earlier than December, once the newly elected school board members play catch-up, he said.

Tonight’s meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the current Buchanan Elementary School, 340 S. West End Ave.

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