Lancaster city would pay the School District of Lancaster $2 million over 20 years under a tentative agreement to build a water tower on district land in Lancaster Township.

The details for a right-of-way easement were presented Tuesday by Matt Przywara, the district’s chief financial and operations officer, at the school board’s committee of the whole meeting.

The easement, of four-fifths of an acre, would allow the city to build a 145-foot-tall steel water tank near Lancaster Community Park and the Manor Shopping Center.

As part of the tentative agreement, the city’s $2 million payment to the school district will be made in annual installments of $100,000 in return for a 99-year use of the land.

The proposed easement may be up for a vote as soon as the next school board meeting on Tuesday, March 19, according to Przywara.

The water tower, which had long been proposed for a site directly north of Lancaster Community Park, is now proposed toward the east end of the parcel near Millersville Pike.

According to Tuesday night’s presentation, the city and school district would evenly split maintenance costs for a proposed new entry road to the tower from Millersville Pike. Tentative plans call for it to be named Davis Drive, an indirect extension of sorts of a road by the same name located across the park.

The city would also be responsible for any removal and disposal costs for the water tower and keep the easement site in good condition, according to the presentation.

While the easement would cede use to the city for the term of the agreement, the school district would maintain the right to consent and approve any cell towers or appendages to the water tower.

In addition, the school district would receive 50 percent of the revenue from any cell tower or other equipment placed on the water tower, according to the presentation.

It would even have say over the color of the water tower.

Przywara emphasized that the agreement was not a sale of the property, so the district has the right to regain the land at the end of the 99-year term.

The city would also reimburse the district for up to $10,000 in consultant fees related to redesign costs that the water tower prompted for the soon to be rebuilt Buchanan Elementary School.

Controversial tower

Residents, school officials and Lancaster Township officials have questioned why the district settled on the district-owned location near the park.

Out of 14 sites considered, the site between Lancaster Community Park and Wheatland Middle School was the best site both economically and functionally, former public works director Charlotte Katzenmoyer told LNP last March.

Last year, initial cost comparisons for several of the considered sites were found to have been miscalculated by Lititz-based engineering firm ARRO, leading to $480,000 in unaccounted cost estimates. The city maintained the Lancaster Township location was still the best spot for the water tower.

As of December, the cost to construct the tank and most relevant piping was estimated at $7 million, plus another $1.5 million to build a water supply line to the tank, according to Mayor Danene Sorace.

The process to plan and build the tower has been a combative one for Lancaster city, which at one point alluded to seizing the district-owned site through eminent domain.

In Tuesday’s presentation, one point in a summary page mentioned the eminent domain threat, stating the $2 million deal was “in recognition that this agreement on land use is not something the School District wanted and is entering to avoid condemnation of the land.”

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