Old water tower remains offline, new grant opportunities pending mayor’s signature

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 3/1/23

BELLE — Public Works Director Tony Baretich on Feb. 13 presented water tower inspection results to Belle aldermen, which the board hoped would reveal the reason for high levels of coliform in …

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Old water tower remains offline, new grant opportunities pending mayor’s signature


BELLE — Public Works Director Tony Baretich on Feb. 13 presented water tower inspection results to Belle aldermen, which the board hoped would reveal the reason for high levels of coliform in December’s test results.

“After discussing again with the tower guys, there are two holes, hard to reference, but basically you can stick your pinky in ‘em,” Baretich began. “They are in the top of the old water tower and leave it open to rainwater and contaminants. The best we can find is that is where that issue come from, was from that water tower,” Baretich said.

The old water tower, built in 1937, has been offline since December.

“We’ve already done our January and February testing and everything is running like it should, the system is running just like it should be,” Baretich said. “I have not gotten complaints of low water pressure.”

Since taking the old tower offline, Baretich said he has found that they can raise the water levels in the new tower to increase water pressure.

“The biggest thing I wanted you all to know on that old water tower, it was talked about last time when they came here and inspected, that old water tower is done,” Baretich said. “You can see the recommended repairs are around $400,000 to bring that tower up where it needs to be. Add another $350,000 to that and you would have a new one.”

Alderman Jeanette Struemph said $400,000 is significantly more than what they priced a new tower for five years ago.

“Everything has went up,” Baretich said. “As long as the council is not in disagreeance or if they want to bring it up every couple of months, leaving this tower off I think is our best bet. If something were to majorly happen to that tower to where, if we would have to have water, we could as simple as turning the valve. We would have to issue a boil advisory immediately after we turned that valve.”

The tower is currently isolated from the system, although it does have water in it because if they don’t they will fall over.

“Right now I think leaving it out is probably our best option, and see how things go over the next couple of months,” he said.

Alderman Adam Padgett asked about summer usage versus winter usage.

“It really depends,” Baretich said. “Tuesdays are high usage, and I don’t think it is just the school. I think it is the way it works. Mondays are high usage too.”

Baretich estimated 138,000-142,000 gallons of usage in the winter time to about 185,000-205,000 gallons in the summer time. Padgett speculated that they were going to have an issue with water pressure it would be in the summertime when the usage is higher.

“It fluctuates in a small span,” Baretich said. “We might use that much, but we might use that much while it is pumping. We have that availability with both pumps for 600 gallons a minute, which is a pretty substantial amount of water.”

Mayor Daryl White, Jr., asked what would happen if there was a fire.

“If it was that major of a deal, we could turn all the pumps on, but we would have to issue an advisory,” Baretich said.

Struemph said they could rely on mutual aid too. Baretich said they have manually raised the water levels in the new tower and it will hold another four feet than what is in there currently.

“We can compensate for the water difference,” he said.

The old tower only holds 50,000 gallons when it is all the way full.

“We’re not losing that much water,” he said. “Something to think about. If we want to put it back in (to service) we can drain it, we can chlorinate it, fill it, and put it back in service.”

Padgett said he would rather leave it out of service. Struemph asked if it was required for the city to have the work completed after it was delayed five years ago.

“We had just had our drinking water inspection and it was one of their recommendations to have the tower inspected,” Baretich said. “To see what our situation is with it.”

On the new tower, Baretich said it came out mostly good.

“Apparently the vent has got some wear and damage up there,” he said. “They do recommend installing a new aluminum roof vent and there is some welding to be done on the vent tube up there.”

A rough cost estimate is around $7,000 to have the new aluminum vent put in, minus the cost of the welding.

Baretich said there were several recommendations for repairs and maintenance, including power washing and painting.

“He made a comment about needing repainting too,” Baretich said. “Whatever paint was put on there is not sticking to the undercoating as it should. He didn’t give a reason except for non-compatible materials.”

Baretich recommended they look into pricing, and make phone calls and emails to see what some vendors could provide.

Struemph asked about the water budget.

“We are in the black, though there is not a whole lot of room,” he said. “The $24,000 we saved from 2021 — Charro (Reasor, treasurer) thinks it just got absorbed into the general fund. I hate that we had that money saved up and it would have covered at least 75 percent of what we needed to do with the tower.”

An update on the city’s water projects — Baretich said they did not receive any of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds they applied for through Terris Cates with Integrity Engineering.

“I met with Terris on Feb. 3 and broke the ARPA project down into a couple of phases and a phase 2 will be further down the road,” Baretich said.

The project included replacing a majority of cast iron water mains in town, a lot of the centralized, older section of town, as well as copper lines that need to go because it is lead-based.

“They aren’t causing any issues,” Baretich said. “We passed all of our lead and copper testing with flying colors this last year. There’s no issues.”

The application deadline is March 1 to submit to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“Even if come May we decided we can’t do it this year we can walk away from it,” he said. “But if we don’t have it in by March 1 (it’s done). Right now there is talk of some 75 percent grants.”

Baretich said the cost of new lines, a well, and a water tower on the property west of town is what he would be interested in requesting assistance with.

“If we move forward there will be a lot of other meetings,” Baretich said.

White later declined to sign an agreement that would declare the city’s intent to apply for the grants because, while discussed, the board did not vote to move forward. The agenda item was added to a March 1 meeting that was supposed to encompass sexual harassment training for city employees but has since acquired a full agenda.

The board is scheduled to meet at noon on March 1 for mandatory sexual harassment training, discuss the SRF grant application, review new billing software and an RCS bid, discuss employee schedules, budget review, and review the MRPC administration contract for the Rock Island Trail grant.


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