Effort Emerges to Save Water Tower

Water Tower copyRIDGEWAY (Jan. 19, 2017) – Although Town Council has yet to nail down a definite site for a new water tank, the fate of the old water tower standing over downtown Ridgeway has been the subject of some concern among merchants and citizens.

During Council’s Nov. 10 meeting, the Merchants Association asked Council to preserve the old tower and seek an alternate site for the new tank. Last week, during public comment, Dee Dee Ruff told Council she agrees with the Merchants.

“The historic nature of our current tower is part of what we sell as merchants,” Ruff said. “When you think about replacing this tower, think about what we have; and I’d also like you to think about what we could have in the future.”

Ruff said the future of Ridgeway’s water sales lies closer to I-77, where Fairfield County is buying up parcels for a proposed mega-industrial site. A new water tower closer to the interstate, she said, could support industrial and residential growth in the future.

Lee Dixon, of the Fairfield County Revitalization Commission, presented Council with a proposal to help in preserving the old tower. Dixon said his organization would, at no cost to the Town, garner bids and facilitate funding for the restoration of the water tower; provide consultation to the Town regarding the selection of contractors and scheduling of project estimates; serve the Town as consultants to discuss and research all findings; and ensure that the project meets all municipal, county, state and federal guidelines.

Dixon asked for a period of between 30 and 90 days to complete the proposal to restore the tower as a non-working historical landmark.

“I’ve spoken to two tower restoration companies already – one out of North Carolina – and they are ready to give us soft bids,” Dixon said.

Funds to complete the project would come from grants or private or corporate donations, Dixon said.

“The whole point would be that the Town would then be relieved of the cost of restoration,” Dixon said, “also no cost for me to do the work to facilitate this subcontracting and finding out is it being done through the proper channels of municipal government, whether it’s in a grant situation or whether the council requires a certain regulation or code.”

During Councilman Doug Porter’s Water Committee report, Porter said the condition of the existing water tower was exceptionally poor, but, he added, he was glad to hear Dixon’s proposal.

“It’s safe to say that the old tank will stay there,” Porter said. “There’s no worry about it coming down.”

Porter said the Committee has explored several alternate sites for the new tower, including behind the existing tower on S. Palmer Street, beside the new fire station, behind Aimwell Cemetery on N. Dogwood Ave. and behind the Century House.

To erect a new tower behind the existing tower, Porter said, would cost approximately $22,000 more just to connect with the water main.

But, Porter said, “we don’t want to mess up the skyline with another tank nearby.”

To build it beside the fire station would cost an additional $25,000 to $35,000 to run the lines from the fork at highways 21 and 34 to the new tower. Building it behind the Aimwell Cemetery would involve purchasing an acre of land from the church and running lines to the main. The Town owns the property behind the Century House, Porter said, and the water main is on the Century House side of the road.

The Town recently received a Rural Infrastructure Authority grant for $500,000 to replace the tank. The Town would have to front $97,550 for engineering services, geotechnical services, DHEC fees and contingencies.

“It’s an 18-month grant,” Mayor Charlene Herring said. “It will take 18 months. Only two tank companies in the U.S. build these. Then it takes them about a year to do that. The real issue is, do we have the money if we find another site? Remember we already have to pay $95-98,000 for this grant anyway. Do we have additional funds? The County says they will do the piping and whatever. We hope. So it’s almost like we’re maxed out on what we can spend.”

Council will hold a work session tonight (Jan. 19) at 6:30, followed by a special meeting.