Much ado about water

Published 7:36 pm Friday, November 22, 2019

City looks for public input about water tower


The Albert Lea City Council is looking for feedback Tuesday about the proposed style and location for a new water tower in Albert Lea.

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The decision comes as the downtown water tower, which is off of Fountain Street north of Newton Avenue, is deteriorating and needs to be replaced, according to city officials.

The City Council has heard presentations about the possible sites for a new tower but hopes to hear opinions from residents before making a decision, said City Manager David Todd.

An open house begins at 5:30 p.m. and will include a presentation about the pros and cons of various options, along with time for people to share their opinions.

The main question aside from design is whether to build the new tower on the same site — in what some consider prime real estate — or whether to build it in a different location — and if so, where?

The cost of the tower replacement will come from city water funds, with money set aside from within the capital improvement plan, Todd said. The construction is slated for 2021.

The city is considering three styles: composite, hydropillar or spheroid. The tower itself is expected to cost about $2.97 million and would hold 1.5 million gallons of water, said Chris Lowe, a civil engineer with the city engineering department.

Lowe said the composite design has a concrete base and a steel tank. The base would not have to be painted and would be the most efficient to maintain. The hydropillar design has a steel base and a steel tank, and the spheroid design is also made of steel but has a sphere tank with a slender base.

Lowe said water towers have to be painted roughly every 20 years — costing about $700,000 each time, depending on the design —  and the lifespan of a water tower is 75 to 80 years. The current tower was built in the 1920s, he said.

City staff in October expressed top support for replacing the new tower at its same location, though seven other sites are also being considered. Lowe said the tower will be have to be built 35 feet higher than the existing tower to fully contribute to the water system.

The current site is also next to a well and treatment system and would have the lowest parking impacts. On the opposing side, it could be a barrier to development in the area if the city wanted to market that property.

“There is an appetite for property on the lake,” Todd said.

If the land were to ever sell, it would cost the city an additional $1.5 million to $2 million to drill in a well and put in a plant at a new location.

Other locations receiving high recommendations were in the parking lot behind Jake’s Pizza, in the parking lot across from the Freeborn County Courthouse and at the Blazing Star Landing.

Next in ranking are the municipal parking lot between the Department of Human Services and the Eagles Club and the parking lot near the intersection of Main Street and Washington Avenue. Both of these choices would impact parking.

The locations to rank last in the recommendations were the North Broadway parking lot and Central Park.

Todd said he hopes people will attend the open house and share their opinions with the councilors.