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Germantown residents wary of possible water tower

By Published: March 06, 2019 10:38 PM CT
<strong>Houston High freshmen Jackson Bennetz (left) and Mari-Ann Becerra swing in Houston Levee Park after school. Germantown schools superintendent Jason Manuel says if the city wants to build a water tower on the site of Forest Hill Elementary, he would like the rest of Houston Levee Park for the high school's athletic fields.</strong>&nbsp;(Houston Cofield/Daily Memphian)

Houston High freshmen Jackson Bennetz (left) and Mari-Ann Becerra swing in Houston Levee Park after school. Germantown schools superintendent Jason Manuel says if the city wants to build a water tower on the site of Forest Hill Elementary, he would like the rest of Houston Levee Park for the high school's athletic fields. (Houston Cofield/Daily Memphian)

Germantown wants to build an elevated water tower at the new Forest Hill Elementary School site, creating concerns among area residents.

The tower, sought by the city in its proposed fiscal 2020 budget, would be on the northeast portion of the property near Forest Hill-Irene and Poplar Pike. The Shelby County Assessor’s website shows the Germantown Board of Education owns the land.

“At this point, we’ve received nothing official from the city for use of the land,” school board chairwoman Rebecca Luter said. “And there is not a memorandum of understanding between us and the city.”

Germantown Municipal School District Superintendent Jason Manuel said he was aware of a possible elevated water tower on the 38-acre site when it was purchased. He said if the city wants to move forward with putting a water tower there, he would like to receive in return the rest of Houston Levee Park for athletic fields at Houston High. The school already uses a majority of the park, but the board would have to approve the additional use.

Bo Mills, the city's public works director, said the 2019 budget allowed the city to lay the water main for the school. Manuel said the line provides water to the school, but the city asked GMSD if it could lay a larger pipe and pay the difference. Mills said the larger pipe allows the water pressure needed for the tower.

Mills said the city is working to gain control of all the water in the Forest Hill Heights area, and this is a part of accomplishing that goal.

City administrator Patrick Lawton said staff “will absolutely be recommending this to the board” for approval, and Mayor Mike Palazzolo touted the importance of the project at the city's retreat with aldermen recently. 

“Water is life blood of community in so many different ways,” Palazzolo said.

Germantown has two water tanks on the north side of Poplar Pike near Germantown High School. A small one, built in 1956, holds 75,000 gallons. The other was built in 1971 and holds 500,000 gallons.

Germantown was going to build another tank in Johnson Road Park in 2006, holding 1 million to 1.5 million gallons. However, because of resistance from area residents, the city put it underground.

Now in the eastern part of the suburb, on the south side of Poplar, residents worry about this new $2.5 million elevated tank that will hold 250,000 to 500,000 gallons of water.

Alderman Dean Massey asked if the tower could be placed farther south along Winchester Road, but Mills said that would require a taller tower.

John Duke is building 75 homes on 32 acres in the area. He said the water tower is not a positive factor for the subdivision.

“Nobody wants a water tower,” he said.

The median home sales price in the area is $477,000.

Plans have not been revealed, so Duke is not sure if it will affect the value of the homes he plans to sell.

Residents fear a drop in property values and a changing character of the neighborhood.

Wade Walker owns a home behind the new elementary school. He said he was not told about the elevated tank until after the site selection process. He said the city is moving forward “full steam ahead,” and he feels there has been a lack of transparency about the matter.

The residents had individual discussions with city officials and staff, but there has not been a public meeting and Walker said he is “frustrated” by the process “behind the scenes.”

“It’s amazing how strict zoning is, and they’re talking about putting a water tower near 1- to 2-acre lot homes,” he said.

Former school board candidate area Brian Curry said he reached out to the school board when he heard about the water tower last year. He said the board was “seemingly unaware” of the plans. He also reached out to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

“I was told by most of the aldermen last year that no decisions had been made and there was a process that had to be followed in order for a water tower to be approved ... (and) that it was too early to discuss,” he said.

Residents hope the board either moves the tower away from the residential area or takes the process underground as it did previously.

“Throughout this process, we have urged city officials to place a pumping station, just as was placed in Johnson Road Park in 2006 when this issue came up before,” Curry said. “We aren't unreasonable, we just want to follow the precedent that was set at the time.” 

Topics

Germantown Municipal School District Forest Hill-Irene Forest Hill Heights Forest Hill Elementary Jason Manuel Mike Palazzolo Patrick Lawton
Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren is a lifelong resident of Shelby County and a May 2018 graduate of the University of Memphis.  She has worked for several local publications and has covered Germantown since May 2018.


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