Newton water tank gets new life

Newton will spend $307,000 to keep intact a long-time part of the city's skyline and create a new opportunity for revenue in the process
Even though the plan, technically, doesn't hold any water.
City Council approved a plan this week to invest $307,417 into refurbishing Newton's half-million gallon water tank near downtown. In doing so, the project will improve the appearance and stability of the 62-year-old structure, but it won't make it a viable water storage tank. It will, however, solidify the city's ability to rent space on the water tower to communication companies looking to locate satellite antennas in the area.
"That (water tank) really is a landmark, as far as I am concerned," said Council member Mary Bess Lawing. "You can see it from Startown and various areas of the city. That tells people where Newton is. If we took it down, we would be making a mistake. ... I could not bear to look and see a tower not sitting there."
Newton's downtown water tank was built in 1948, but it has not held city water since 1994, said Newton City Manager Todd Clark. While it has been out-of-service 16 years, the city has continued to maintain the tank, including spot priming and painting it in 2005.
Today,however, the water tank is in bad condition, as evidenced by peeling paint on its exterior.
"At this point you have rust inside the tank," Newton Public Works Director Wilce Martin said, adding when the tank was inspected by an outside company, "They looked at it, and you could see pinholes of light coming in through the tank. On the floor of the tank, there are holes that are rusted through. The ladder on the tank is rusted and not safe to climb on."
Meanwhile, communications company SunCom has an antenna on the water tank that was placed in 2008. Over a five-year period, the wireless communications company will pay the city $234,000, including $42,000 each year for the coming two years.
Another communications company has also approached the city to lease additional space on the tank for a separate antenna. An agreement with a new company, combined with SunCom could mean a total of $75,000 in revenue for the city during the current fiscal year, and $81,000 next year.
With the potential of placing a total of three antennas on the water tank, Newton's aging structure could be a growing revenue stream for the city. To reap that revenue, however, city leaders needed to decide the future fate of the water tank.
Demolishing the water tank would cost about $25,000, and that is money city leaders tentatively budgeted to spend in past budgets. To build a new half-million gallon water tank in its place would cost another $1 million, and while it would provide additional water storage the current location is not the "most desirable" site, said City Manager Todd Clark.
Alternatively, the city could demolish the tank and erect a new 199-foot, self-support tower that would accommodate up to three antennas. Erecting that tower could cost another $97,464, and by financing the cost, demolition of the tank and construction of a tower would cost about $142,285, said Newton Planning Director Glenn Pattishall.
With those proposals in front of them, Newton City Council voted unanimously to keep the city's tank intact.