Members of a citizens group that opposes Lancaster city’s plans to build a water tower near Buchanan Elementary School in Lancaster Township took their case to City Council on Tuesday.
“We are requesting the City of Lancaster develop a much-needed cost-benefit analysis of the district land compared to its other three top choices,” said Lisa Helfrich, who joined Kate Lutz in reading a statement to council on behalf of of Friends of Lancaster Township Park.
Earlier this month, the School District of Lancaster board voted 6-3 to grant the city a 99-year easement, allowing the city to build the water tower while the district maintains ownership of the land. The city will pay the district $2 million over 20 years.
The township citizens group has argued vehemently against the tower, contending that officials have not made a solid case for its necessity or for the site near Buchanan as the best location.
The city has said the tower is required to improve pressure and allow for development in the suburbs south of Lancaster. The city is obliged to provide water service to new developments within its service area, which includes Millersville and portions of eight townships.
The school board said it entered into negotiations because of the city’s willingness to resort to eminent domain to acquire the property, which board members feared would rob them of any say in the project going forward.
Helfrich suggested that alternative approaches or sites “may be more relevant and cost-effective,” once the $2 million easement and other costs related to the site are factored in.
“We do not believe this is a NIMBY issue,” Lutz said, terming it rather “the public speaking on behalf of preserving the quality of our public land and schools.”
Lutz said the school site should be preserved for future educational needs. She called for the city to delay moving forward until it hires its new director of public works and fills two other senior Water Bureau positions and allow those professionals to weigh in on the tower.
In a discussion that stretched more than an hour after council’s meeting concluded, Council President James Reichenbach pushed back against some of the group’s assertions.
The school district site was recommended by highly qualified engineers, he said, including former public works director Charlotte Katzenmoyer.
“Our engineers disagree with you,” he said. “People can respectfully disagree.”
He also said the government entities involved have been transparent, with the issue debated in numerous public meetings.