Construction on new WaterOne tower in Shawnee — to be the largest in JoCo — will start in July

WaterOne currently has six towers in Johnson County. Photo credit WaterOne.

The Shawnee City Council conducted an administrative review Tuesday of site plans for WaterOne’s new, 3 million-gallon water tower, which will be the largest in Johnson County, to be built on the Public Works Service Center grounds at 18690 Johnson Drive.

Public Works Director Doug Whitacre told the council the project would also include WaterOne’s reconstruction of the department’s material storage and street sweeper discharge facilities at a cost to the utility of about $250,000, part of the project’s overall cost of about $9.75 million.

The council approved an agreement with WaterOne for the tower at its March 26 meeing. WaterOne is the county’s water utility and has over 425,000 area customers in 17 cities.

WaterOne will pay for the entire cost of the project’s construction and maintenance. Construction cost includes about $8.25 million for the 110-foot tower and its tank and nearly $1.5 million for the pipeline system, said Mandy Cawby, the utility’s director of customer relations, after the council’s March 26 meeting.

Groundbreaking has started on the pipeline and completion is scheduled for spring 2020. The tower’s construction is planned to start in July and also be completed in spring 2020.

WaterOne will make no rental or lease payments to the city for the tower; the utility also makes no rental or lease payments for any of its existing facilities, Cawby said.

The use agreement required WaterOne to submit a site plan for administrative review by the city’s planning staff, and the Planning Commission reviewed the plan on May 21 and provided no comments on it, according to a Tuesday memo from Whitacre to Interim City Manager Vicki Charlesworth. The item at Tuesday’s meeting was strictly informational, so no council action was required.

WaterOne has six elevated water towers, two on-ground reservoir tanks with pumping stations and eight underground reservoirs with pumping stations in Johnson County.

Ward 3 councilmembers Stephanie Meyer and Justin Adrian voted against the agreement at the March 26 meeting. Adrian said the tower would be “an eyesore to the city.” Meyer agreed, and said she had been “frustrated with the entire process” because WaterOne had first approached officials at Unified School District No. 232 in DeSoto, not the council, to discuss possible tower locations.

WaterOne Director of Production Michelle Wirth said at that meeting that elevated tanks were “typically located where it’s right-sized and right for the need of the system.” WaterOne considers the tower a “green solution” because it minimizes fuel storage and emissions in the absence of an on-site generator; uses less energy because it has no mechanical equipment that requires power; is quiet because it has no pumps or generator; and is “a low-cost alternative, as well, as far as cost of ownership.”

An underground tank and pipeline would cost about $3 million more than an elevated tank, Cawby said. WaterOne evaluated nine options among seven sites for both elevated and underground tanks before choosing the Public Works Service Center site.

Because of the system’s redundancy to ensure normal functioning in case of a power outage, “this would sustain us during that power outage, to give and ensure that there is (adequate water) pressure throughout this area,” Wirth said.

The city’s agreement with WaterOne requires that neither the city nor the utility may put signs, symbols or written text on the tower, other than WaterOne’s logo, without prior written consent of the utility’s general manager and Shawnee’s city manager.