ONTARIO -- The old Shaker Water Tower didn't come down without a fight early Tuesday morning.
And its demise nearly provided an electrifying ending to its 67-year history.
The 170-foot, 500,000-gallon water tower (located near the intersection of Lexington-Springmill Road and Ohio 309) was finally toppled by Baumann Enterprises just after 6 a.m. -- about 90 minutes later than expected.
The City of Mansfield built the 500,000-gallon water tower in 1956 to supply water to General Motors, which opened the first of its several buildings in 1955 and called Ontario home until 2010.
As it finally fell with a thud, the antenna that sat atop the massive tower brushed against the power and communications lines running along Lexington-Springmill Road, rocking the lines and creating a shower of sparks.
"It was a close call. That's a fact," said City of Mansfield engineer Bob Bianchi, who watched the pre-dawn effort along with Mansfield Mayor Tim Theaker. "Thankfully, it didn't do any damage."
The plan was to have the tower fall directly to the north. Instead, it toppled in more of a northeasterly direction.
Bill Baumann, president of the Garfield Heights company awarded a $73,700 contract by the City of Mansfield to take the tank down, said initial problems started when his workers began notching the north legs of the eight-legged tower.
"We would've cut it a little higher. When we cut the front legs, we should have went up a little higher because it sat down on itself. That's really it.
"So when it came back down, it sat back down on the front two legs. And if we would've cut it another three-foot higher, it would've been, it would've been better," Baumann said.
The company began prep work on the site last week, including draining the water from the tower.
Bianchi said the company's plan Tuesday morning was to use two excavators with cables attached to the power, one near the top and one at the base. Once the legs were notched with torches, the plan was to have the excavators pull it down into a grassy area.
That plan changed when the cable near the base broke, he said.
"(Baumann) was left with one cable and tension pulling the tower along the proposed tipping axis," the engineer said.
Baumann instead maneuvered his excavator to a point on the south side of the tower and began to push while the second excavator maintained tension on the north side.
"It was improvised," Baumann said. "That was the only way to do it at that point. It was a safer way to do it than just continue with the torches."
The company president said he had confidence his worker in the second excavator could bring it down safely.
"I knew he still had it. I knew if I could get it to go, he still had it on that end, that it was gonna carry it that way. So I figured if he kept it tight, I could push it and it was going to go.
"It landed great, thank God, but it should have gone over that way more," he said.
"Everything went fine, except for it sat back down on itself. A couple more feet and it would have gone over on the first pull," he said.
In May, Bianchi told Mansfield City Council that the city agreed to build the tower to meet GM's water needs 66 years ago when Ontario, then a village, could not do so.
The city billed General Motors directly for the water, Bianchi said.
Bianchi told council the tower was no longer needed and was in need of significant repair.
"The EPA basically has told us (to) fix it or remove it," he said. "We have contacted Ontario to see if perhaps they would want the tower as an asset for their system.
"They deliberated through council and through the administration and said that they have decided they do not want the tower," Bianchi said.
He said the project was competitively bid and that Baumann Enterprises submitted the lowest, best offer. He said the company will be able to sell about 150 tons of steel from the tower, reducing the demolition price.
Bianchi said it will take the company about two weeks to remove the old tower ad then the ground will be restored to its original grassy condition.
The tower sits on 0.42 acres of land owned by the City of Mansfield. Bianchi said the site is no longer needed for the city water system and could be sold to the City of Ontario or a private developer in the future.