What fate awaits Ridgeway’s iconic water tower?

RIDGEWAY – The Ridgeway town council discussed several options regarding the fate of the town’s 100-year-old water tower last week after recent sub-freezing temperatures and high winds damaged the iconic “Tin Man” structure.

Present for the discussion was Daniel Wilson of Southern Corrosion, the company the town had recently contracted to paint the tower and make minor repairs at a cost of $75,000. The town received a $100,000 grant from the state last fall to have the work done. But before it was painted, the Christmas Eve winter storm burst the pipe that took water to and from the tower and blew off half of the catwalk that leads from the main catwalk to the top of the tank.

Water was kept in the tank to keep it stabilized even though the tank no longer serves the town’s water customers. When the freeze thawed, all the water from the tank drained out the burst pipe, leaving the top-heavy tank at risk.

Mayor Heath Cookendorfer pointed out that without water in the tank, the tower could become unstable. He suggested several possible options for stabilizing the structure – repair the tank and fill it with water, sand or concrete; or take it down.

After much discussion, it was decided that filling it with water or sand would further corrode the tank walls, causing them to thin.

According to Wilson, filling the tank with concrete might be fine for now, but at some time in the future when the tank might have to come down, that much concrete could be a huge problem, creating a hazardous situation. 

Prioleau asked Wilson whether the base might become the stabilizer by lacing rebar through the four legs at the bottom and adding a base of concrete.

Wilson said that Prioleau’s idea might possibly work, but that he could not confirm it would.

The only other solution proposed would be to take the 100+ year old tank down which, Cookendorfer said, would be a controversial action.

“It’s a landmark,” he said.

“But even repairing the damage to the water tower could be a problem for us if we try to collect insurance money to cover our costs,” Cookendorfer said. “The insurance company might pay us, but they might also make us take it down. That’s what happened when the roof caved in on the old school building. The insurance company paid us for the damage, but made us tear it down,” he said.  “We have the same insurance company now that we had then, so we need to consider that might be their decision on the issue.”

Wilson said he would bring a re-figured cost to council next month that would include removing what is left of the damaged catwalk and repairing additional damage caused by the storm.  He also agreed to allow the council two months to make a final decision as to how they want to proceed with the stabilization of the water tower.


  1. Calvin Kennedy says

    I relate back to a true story of when Dan Ruff’s Father (Walter) was on the board at The Bank of Ridgeway. The board was getting ready to vote on having a new vault door installed & before the vote, Mr. Ruff asked the question ‘Why do y’all want to put a new steel door on a cardboard box”? In other words, the vault walls were so weak, why put a new door on them? This kinda relates to the water tank! Why throw good money to the bad? If you want to look at it & it’s no longer serving the purpose it was built for, take a picture & take it down! Eliminate the liability & expense!

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