By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
An Atmore water tower has drawn a lot of attention over the past several months, as workers tethered to the tower’s apex began and continued the process of applying a complete makeover to the giant receptacle.
“This one, they took down to the metal,” Kenny Smith, manager of West Escambia Utilities, explained of the work done on the tower located at the intersection of Trammell and Howard streets. “This had not been done, not in my memory, during my 20-something years here.”
The maintenance project actually included two towers, the one in downtown Atmore — which got a major upgrade — and the one at Fountain Correctional Facility, on which the work was much less comprehensive.
“We were able to get two done as a package, at a better price,” Smith said of the $330,000 expenditure. “Most of the money is in the Trammell Street one. The one at Fountain, they just sandblasted the rust and repainted it.”
Once the preliminary work was completed on the outer portion of the Trammell Street tower, it was draped in a huge roof-to-ground curtain to contain the byproducts of the refurbishing process.
“One of the reasons they put the curtain or skirt on was that there was a lot of sand flying off the tower,” Smith said. “Some of it still got out, but not enough to damage vehicles or the neighborhood.”
Temporary poles had to be put in place for emergency communications, meter-reading and commercial wi-fi antennas, and electricity had to be interrupted to the area around the tower each time the curtain was put in place.
The repainted water receptacle now includes the WEU logo on its northern and southern sides.
Smith said money had been set aside for “probably the past three or four years” for tank maintenance. He added that the cost of the twin tower rehabilitation project, though it seems high, was actually a bargain for an upgrade of such a scale that it won’t have to be repeated anytime soon.
“Since we spent so much money at one time, we got a great deal,” he explained. “It’s hard to say $330,000 and ‘great deal’ in the same sentence; it just doesn’t seem right. We might end up having to do some touch-up, like we did at Fountain, but I doubt we’ll have to touch this one like this again during my tenure.”