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Tower escapes demolition

News editor

About $38,000 of unanticipated repairs to the historic water tower briefly raised the spectre of its demise, but city council members on Tuesday voted to keep the tower as part of the water system.

Workers for the company hired to replace the top of the tower, blown off during a Labor Day weekend storm, discovered deteriorated steel in the tower. Left unrepaired, the tower would be useless.

City administrator Larry Paine detailed the needed work, then outlined an alternative using pumps at the water plant that would negate the need for the tower. The pumps would cost about $68,000.

“If we don’t do the repairs, we don’t need it as a part of the water distribution system,” Paine said. “If you don’t do that, why should we even have it there? It becomes an attractive nuisance for damage and graffiti, things on the tower we’d have to fix.”

Council member David Loewen raised the issue of future maintenance.

“You’ve got a water tower you’ll have to do work on,” he said. “What kind of ongoing maintenance would go on that would be different from pumps?”

Paine estimated painting and cleaning the water tower every five to 10 years would cost between $5,000 and $10,000.

“You have maintenance on a mechanical item and maintenance on a non-mechanical item; you’d think the maintenance on the mechanical item would be significantly more,” council member Shelby Dirks said.

Pumps would last a maximum of 20 years, Paine said.

While Paine proposed the alternative, he recommended keeping the tower, partially because of its historic value.

“The water tower being part of the national historic registry gives it unique character,” he said. “I think it’s the only water tower in Kansas on the registry. Keeping it part of the water system from that perspective is more desirable to me.”

“It’s probably the only one with a lid blown off,” Dirks responded.

“There’s a new one sitting on the ground right next to it,” Paine replied.

Mayor Delores Dalke asked if the restoration would include painting “Hillsboro” on the tower, and Dirks asked if registry rules required that. While several members recalled the name being on the tower, Paine said he hadn’t seen any documentation the name had been there.

Council unanimously approved proceeding with the repairs.

Bartel House

The long-planned restoration of the historic Bartel House north of Hillsboro inched forward as council members approved moving remains of the stone structure to the city shop.

Earlier this year, council declined to share with Hillsboro Museum Board the almost $20,000 cost of the move, which will involve putting 110 tons of stones on 55 palettes for transport.

Monday, council members approved museum board request to use Bartel House restoration trust funds managed by the city, in combination with money from friends of the museum, to cover the cost.

The city will store the stones until plans and funds for further restoration are available.

Last modified July 9, 2015

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