IL Water Tank Scheduled for Repairs
The City of Rochelle, Illinois, is reportedly planning to repaint and perform maintenance on a large water tower near an overpass next year.
According to a report from Rochelle News, the cost of the project will exceed $1 million and will include abrasive blast-cleaning and painting the tower, as well as planned maintenance for replacing corroded items inside of it and a ladder being installed inside.
About the Tower Repairs
The report states that the city looked at repainting the tower a few years ago, but its Well 4 project on 2nd Avenue took precedence due to a grant received for it. Another project at Well 8 also reportedly took a spot over the tower’s needs. That well, which serves Rochelle’s industrial area, reportedly needed an iron removal plant.
“If you look at it, it really needs the painting badly,” said Jay Mulholland, Superintendent of Water/Water Reclamation. “It's obviously a few years behind schedule. But with the way costs have been it's been hard to get it done and other projects have pushed it off to the side.”
Additionally, the city is reportedly hoping to receive a grant for the tower painting but has saved up enough cash to fund it on its own.
“I see that tower when I come into town before any other tower,” said Jeff Fiegenschuh, Rochelle City Manager. “We want it to look good and nice and it's representative of the city. It's hard for us to advocate that private property should look better when our water tower looks so dilapidated. But again, it's expensive. It's going to cost over $1 million.
“You have to prioritize projects. The water tower is still functioning and works well. We were required under an agreement with the state to build a new radium removal plant and an iron removal plant. We only have so much money. Where do we spend it first? And it depends on grants that we may get to assist with those projects to ensure that our ratepayers don't bear the entire burden. So we went with the wells first and now we're moving on the tower.”
According to Mulholland, the water tower was built in the 1950s and the last time it was serviced to the extent that it will be in 2024 is unknown. The tower reportedly holds up to 500,000 gallons of water and was built without a ladder inside. Past work to the inside of it has been done by divers.
“You can get up it, but you have to fill it all the way up in order to get in it. We put the divers in there two years ago to clean it out and we had to fill it all the way to the top so they could get in. And then they had to get out from the top,” said Mulholland.
“They climb the outside of the tower and there's a hatchway on top that they get in and out at. They just dove down in there to clean it. They have a robotic thing that's used to clean the inside. And then they swim back up to the top of the hatch to get out. The water has to be all the way to the top.”
The water tower is also reportedly used for cellular service and emergency antenna installations on its top. Fiegenschuh stated that the water tower and the others the city owns generate about $100,000 a year through cellular service antenna contracts and that money is used to fund city water operations.
Mulholland said that with it being in the center of town, the water tower is important in keeping water pressure up for homes and businesses, specifically the ones closest to the downtown area.
“It's very important,” Mulholland said. “We would not want to lose that tower. The pressure of the gravity in the tower is what keeps the water pressure up in water mains and homes. If we lost the tower, we'd lose the pressure. It also helps for fire suppression and it's having the extra water in case of a fire downtown.”
Fiegenschuh added that the city is aware of the pride that residents have in the tower’s appearance and that conversations have already begun about what branding will be put on it after painting.
“We have a couple of designs that we're going to take to the city council that incorporate the Hub logo. I don't think you're going to see a lot of change. It might be different colors, but we're still going to have the Hub logo or something tied in with the Hubs like what's on there now with the purple colors,” said Fiegenschuh.
“We want to make sure we incorporate the new look while remembering the past look. I know that's important to people. We're working on a couple of logo ideas that we'll take to the city council. It won't be the new red and gold city logo. We're going to incorporate purple and black into this one, I believe."
Other Recent Water Tower Projects
In August, the completion of repairs to a water tower in Elmont, New York, were reportedly pushed back to November, as the surrounding community waited for the town’s name to be painted on the structure.
According to a report from the LI Herald, the repairs were initially to be completed by the second week of July, but the contractor, NUCO Painting Corporation, extended the deadline to November.
The report stated that the first phase of the project involved moving cellular carriers and Nassau County Police Department communication antennas from the tower.
Interior repairs to the tank reportedly began in September 2022, including abrasive blasting to clear off corrosive elements to make the tank usable. Exterior repairs reportedly began in the spring.
Elmont resident Dwayne Palmer, who in 2020 wrote a letter to Nassau County Legislator Carrie Solages requesting that the tower be repainted, stated that he expected that the entire structure of the tower would be in usable condition by the end of the year. Accomplishing this reportedly would mean the removal of contaminants from the water supply so that the community receives clean water, as well as the tower being beautified.
Palmer added that beautifying the tower is important to protect property values so that they do not get driven down by keeping an “ugly, uncared for public utility in the heart of Elmont.”
Improvements to the tower are reportedly overdue, according to Solages, who expressed how thankful he was that this and other water infrastructure issues were being addressed after community campaigns.
At first, officials stated that repairs would take four years to complete, but after pressure from the community, the timeline was shortened to only two years. Michael Tierney, superintendent of the Water Authority of Western Nassau County, estimated that 40% of the exterior work on the tank had been completed at the time of the most recent postponement announcement.
Tierney added that the water authority was working to get the project back on schedule after making a personal promise to the community about the water tower’s rehabilitation.
The contractor had reportedly worked on other water tanks throughout the tri-state area since 2000. The estimated cost for the improvement project for the water tower was reportedly more than $3 million.