Old Center water tower a hazard

CENTER — Town Project Manager and Building Inspector/Code Enforcement Officer David Mahaffie informed Center Town Board Monday that the old Center water tower, once the new water tank is online, will become a safety hazard and has to go.
Mahaffie explained the old tower is badly rusted and is leaking. It also needs to be raised to the level of the new tank, an additional expense. Once the new tank is ready and it is emptied, he said, it would increase the oxidation rate in the old water tower.
Then the old tower “is in danger of coming [falling] down within a year,” Mahaffie cautioned. “We must make a decision fast.” The new tank is scheduled to be completed by Sept. 15. The latest the old tank could be safely dismantled is by next summer, but Mahaffie advised it be done “as quickly as possible.”
A tank inspection company rated the old tower, purchased from Pueblo in the 1970s, as in fair to poor condition in 2008. The company inspecting and rating the tank defined fair condition as “major deficiencies noted. Item is in need of repairs to continue functioning as designed.” Poor condition means “repair or replacement is required immediately. Item may no longer function as designed,” (report provided by Liquid Engineering Corp., Billings, Montana).
Mahaffie said the old tower was more or less “condemned” in 2014.
Several repairs on the tank have been performed since the 2008 report and the town’s water supply is currently safe, Mahaffie assured the board. Despite its condition, many board members previously preferred restoring the old water tower to purchasing a new tank. Or if a new tank was purchased, they favored refurbishing the old one as a back-up tank rather than purchasing a second tank.
Mahaffie said the town would need to budget $800-850,000 for a new tank, plus an additional expense to remove the old one. It would cost the town $885,000 to renovate the existing tower, he said, making any renovation costly and impractical. “Nobody has planned for this,” Mahaffie told the board. “There is no fund — no nothing.”
Current costs for the water tank plan are coming in under budget, Mahaffie said in a phone interview Tuesday. The current project is about 71 percent complete and so far only $567,000 of the $1.1 million in an interest-free government loan and other funds have been spent.
The old tower’s replacement is a “new project” in addition to the current water tank project, Mahaffie explained, and additional funds will need to be appropriated for the old tower’s demolition and replacement.
Generators to power the new tank have arrived and will be installed soon. Everything in town can be handled currently by one tank, Mahaffie confirmed, and wells are up to 92 percent efficiency. But if the town grows or wants to develop the Consaul property, it will take two tanks to handle the town’s water supply, making the purchase of a new tank to replace the old tower necessary.
Painters for the new tank will begin their work in a few weeks. The paint job should be finished by the end of August, Mahaffie said.
The town board scuttled the initial $2.8 million water tower project in August of 2012, after proponents and some residents questioned whether the town qualified as a water enterprise and therefore could use bond money for the project. Later voters approved moving forward with the project, reduced to $1.1 million.
In May of 2014, then town manager Scott Harold laid out the initial loan deal passed by the previous board to pin down costs of $1.7 million total: $1.1 million in a zero interest loan, the now defunct $500,000 DOLA grant and $100,000 in matching funds from the town. “There’s a strong suggestion in the loan that we also have money to pay for meters and a backflow valve,” not included in the loan, he told the board.
In January 2015 the board amended the $1.1 million water tank loan, reducing the tank size from a 500,000-gallon tank to a 350,000-gallon model, but increasing the pump capacity. Following the 2015 town board reconfiguration, town board members favored retaining the old tank versus purchasing a new holding tank.


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