City plans to repaint water tower near overpass in 2024
‘We want it to look good and nice and it's representative of the city’
ROCHELLE — The City of Rochelle plans to repaint and perform maintenance on the large water tower near the overpass in 2024, City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh and Rochelle Municipal Utilities Assistant Superintendent of Water/Water Reclamation Jay Mulholland said.
Fiegenschuh said the cost of the project will exceed $1 million. It will include sandblasting and painting of the tower and planned maintenance will include replacing corroded items inside of it and a ladder being installed inside.
“If you look at it, it really needs the painting badly,” Mulholland said. “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.”
The city looked at repainting the tower a few years ago, but its Well 4 project on 2nd Avenue took precedence due to receiving a grant for it. Another project at Well 8 took precedence as well over the tower’s needs. That well, which serves Rochelle’s industrial area, was in need of an iron removal plant. The iron removal plant is an $8 million project and $6 million of it is covered by grants and debt-forgiven loans.
Fiegenschuh said the city is 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,” Fiegenschuh said. “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.”
Mulholland said the water tower was built in the 1950s and was unsure of the last time it was serviced to the extent that it will be in 2024. The tower 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,” Mulholland said. "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. 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 also is utilized for cellular service and emergency antenna installations on the top of it. Fiegenschuh said that 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 vital to keeping water pressure up for homes and businesses, especially 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 said the city is aware of the pride that residents take in the tower’s look and that conversations have already been had about the what branding will be put on it following painting,
“We have a couple of designs that we're going to take to the city council that incorporate the Hub logo,” Fiegenschuh said. “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. 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."