Newton tank gets new coat

Newton's skyline is changing, and this week's addition of a steel crown to the city's familiar downtown water tank was just the beginning.
On Friday, the 63-year-old landmark was shrouded in a cloak of secrecy as renovations improve the appearance and stability of the towering structure. Behind a fluttering, rust-colored cloth, roaring sounds emanate and fill downtown Newton. When the project is complete, the tank still won't hold water, but it will be a valuable revenue stream for the city.
This week, workers continued a $307,000 project to rehabilitate the city;s half-million gallon water tank. Work began several weeks ago with sandblasting inside the water tank to remove dust and other debris, said Newton City Manager Todd Clark.
Now, the refurbishing project is moving to the tank's exterior. As weather permits, the tank will be hidden by a giant shroud as Utility Service Co. begins sandblasting and removing rust from the the tank's outer shell, Clark said.
"It's to keep any dust or particles from being dispersed throughout the city," Clark said of he shroud.
The tank will be repainted with the city's "Heart of Catawba County" logo, however, when the renovation project is complete, the tank won't be capable of holding water. The tank has been empty since 1994, Clark said, however, it still serves an important purpose to the city — it brings in revenue.
"There is value in having the revenue from having (New Cingular Wireless), and in having telephone access and coverage for those customers in this part of the county," Clark said.
Telephone communications company New Cingular Wireless located antennas on top of the tower. That company will pay the city $234,000 during the next five years — including $22,750 during the current fiscal year — for communications antennas located on the tank. Clark said other communications companies have voiced interest in locating antennas on the tank, creating a potential revenue stream of up to $75,000 during the current fiscal year and $81,000 next year, The O-N-E reported in October.
Newton City Council voted in October to refurbish the downtown water tank at a cost of $307,417, which includes visual inspections and reports complete by Utility Service Co. through 2014. At the time, Newton leaders chose to refurbish the water tank, instead of demolishing it at a cost of $25,000. Replacing the half-million gallon water tank carried a price tag of $1 million.
City Council chose to rehabilitate the water tank for use as a platform for telecommunications companies antennas, rather than erecting a 199-foot, self support tower at a cost of $97,500.
Plus, rehabilitating the water tower and leaving it intact — even without water — carried certain aesthetic appeal for Newton leaders.
"That (water tank) really is a landmark, as far as I am concerned," Council member Mary Bess Lawing said during the October City Council meeting. "You can see it from Startown and various areas of the city. That tells people where Newton is."
Depending on weather, renovations of the water tank are expected to be complete within seven weeks, and that's a conservative estimate, Clark said.