|Trinity Standard - Local News
Copyright 2012 - Polk County Publishing Company
Beauty vs. safety debated on new water tower
Trinity Standard -
TRINITY – With city officials arguing safety and school leaders seeking beauty, a proposed water tower located on the Trinity High School campus was the topic of a joint city council-school board meeting Monday night. The water tower is being funded using $570,000 in grant money allocated to Trinity County as part of the Hurricane Ike recovery funds from the federal government. The City of Trinity plans to install, operate and maintain the tower while the Trinity Independent School District is being asking to provide the site. During Monday’s meeting, friction developed between the city and school officials over the design of the tower. School board members indicated they favored the more attractive “single stem” design which City Manager Buddy Drake indicated would cost about $100,000 more than the traditional four- or five-legged towers. “The money we are receiving from the county is just not enough for that,” Drake said. In outlining the overall project, Drake noted that both the city and school should voice their thanks to the Trinity County Commissioners Court for allocating the money for the project. “They didn’t have to do that, but they did and it’s going to really benefit the city and the school district,” he said. Trinity County Judge Doug Page, who was in the audience, explained that because Trinity High School was classified as an emergency shelter, they could justify using Ike Recovery funds for the project. He also noted that under the grant, either a water tower or ground storage facility would have to be located on the school campus or the funding would be withdrawn. In his presentation, Drake noted water pressure has long been at problem at Trinity High School and became even more of a headache when the Trinity Middle School was built adjoining the older THS facility. He noted water pressure for the campus as well as for most of the city’s water customers in that area was only 30 pounds. “You really need between 40 and 50 pounds of pressure for safety,” he said, noting that at 30 pounds, there wasn’t enough water volume and pressure should a major fire break out on the campus. “The firemen would have to run back and forth from town to fill their tankers,” he explained. Drake noted the new tower would more than solve the pressure and water volume issue at the school as well as the surrounding area. Under the plan outlined by Drake, the city is proposing to build up to a 300,000 gallon elevated storage tank, which is double the size of downtown tower. The city manager said the ideal site for the new tower would be on the high school property fronting Highway 94 on the left of the main entrance road . A 125- by 125-foot space would be needed for the tower and control building. Drake said the Trinity River Authority (TRA) has a main water distribution line running to Groveton along the south side of Highway 94 and the city would be able to bore under the highway to connect it to the new water tower. The city would then connect the tower to its distribution system, which would greatly increase the pressure and water volume going to the schools. It was noted that when the project was first proposed, they discussed a ground storage facility at the back of the high school property. Drake said such a facility would require much more piping to connect it to the TRA line and the number of pumps and generators needed to provide the pressure would increase the operating costs. “Gravity (from an elevated tower) is much cheaper and more dependable than an electric pump,” he noted. The city manager added in addition to raising the water pressure to the school, all of eastern Trinity could see and increase. “This also will benefit the area by providing water for future growth,” he added. Included in the city’s plan would be painting the new tower with the high school’s Tiger logo and installing a decorative six-foot high fence around the base of the tower The only sticking point that developed on the project was over the design of the tower. TISD board member Judy Bishop and L.C. Courtney both voiced their strong support for the single stem design, especially in front of the high school campus. They noted the single stem tower was more attractive and would give those traveling to the school or along the highway a much better impression of the city as a whole. School Superintendent Dave Plymale noted that the school district could provide the additional $100,000 to cover the cost, but would have to receive an equal benefit to justify it. It was suggested that a cut in the school’s water rate spread out over 10 or more years equaling $100,000 would be a benefit that could justify the expense. Drake noted that while he does not have a vote in the matter, he would have to recommend the city not reduce the school’s water rates. “You’re essentially creating a $100,000 time warrant if we did that and we still have to pay for the water and for the maintenance,” he said, indicating the city would have to increase the water rates charged to other customers to offset that cost. Noting the low water pressure, TISD board member Steve Tyler argued the school district has essentially been paying for service that it has not received for years. Drake agreed, but added that until the county stepped forward to provide the money, the city couldn’t afford to do anything about the situation. “This money is a gift that can solve a lot of problems,” he said. No final decision was reached on the issue during the joint meeting, but both the city council and school board agreed to continue to work on a solution that would satisfy both sides. It was noted that funding for the project probably would be available by April and because these tanks have already been designed and engineered, construction could begin by the end or the school year. Based on his past experience with such construction, Drake estimated the tower could be built in about 90 days.