Water tower is expected to be operational by mid-July

Published 7:55 pm Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Albert Lea’s new water tower at the intersection of Newton Avenue and Fountain Street is nearing completion after a 2-1/2-year project.

Ryan Hajek, assistant director of public works for the city said the idea started long before February 2020, but at that point, the first steps to building it were taken.

The tower replaces an older water tower near the same location. When finished, the tower will be close to 200 feet tall and will store 1 million gallons of water, though the water level will be around 189 feet. The central tower is part of a system that can store 3 1/2 million gallons on an average day.

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Currently the tower is not in use, but to keep their Insurance Services Office fire rating, provided to fire departments and insurance companies, at a three, they needed five towers as well as their clear wells, to hold 3 1/2 million gallons.

“It helps keep insurance for home owners down,” he said.

Another question he gets asked: Why not raise the old tower?

“The foundations would have to be reengineered because you’ve got more wind load, you don’t know if the foundation is correct,” he said, adding that there was deterioration of the old tower.

The cost to paint the old tower was also estimated to be “substantially higher” than it would have cost to paint a new one.

By his estimations, roughly 30 people worked on the project, including a demolition crew, a foundation crew, a crew for welding and assembly, a painting crew and a crew that worked in excavation.

Removal of the old tower started in August 2021.

“The old water tower that was built had exceeded its life expectance,” he said, noting it also wasn’t built at the right height.

While working on the tower, workers discovered the foundation from a previous tower hadn’t been removed. That was something workers needed to remove so the foundation for the new water tower could be laid.

Despite the surprise, he said the time frame hasn’t changed and said the project was “going well.”

The tower cost $6.715 million in total.

The completion date is currently scheduled for July 12. Hajek said the bottom portion was likely to be blue, while the upper portion will say Albert Lea and have the new city logo on it.

“I’m really excited about it,” he said. “A lot of people were bummed out or not happy to see the old tower go, which had its special look. But I think this one is going to look good as well.”