Iconic Ridgeway water tower refurbished

Workers clean, repair and paint the Ridgeway water tower. | photos: Gloria Keefe

RIDGEWAY – It’s been a year since Mayor Heath Cookendorfer announced that District 41 House Representative Annie McDaniel had obtained $100,000 from the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to cover the costs of painting and refurbishing the historic Ridgeway water tower, including restoring the original color and lettering.

The Town contracted with Southern Corrosion to paint the tower and make minor repairs at a cost of $75,000.

That work is expected to be finished this week. During the year since council voted to have the tower painted and refurbished, the iconic tower suffered a trauma that teetered on a death knell for the beloved landmark.

The painting and refurbishing work on the tower was set to begin in early 2023. However, a few weeks prior to the work starting, a Christmas Eve winter storm with sub-freezing temperatures and high winds hit the area and damaged the landmark ‘Tin Man’ structure.

The storm burst the pipe that took water to and from the tower, damaged a vent on top of the tank, and blew off half 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 told council members at the July 21, 2022, council meeting that the tower was facing other problems as well.

“Without water in the tank, the tower could become unstable and fall,” Cookendorfer said. He suggested several possible options for stabilizing the structure – repair the tank and fill it with water, sand or concrete; or take it down.

Council agreed that taking the 100-year-old face of Ridgeway down would be a highly controversial action.

After much discussion with Daniel Wilson of Southern Corrosion, it was decided that filling it with water or sand would further corrode the tank walls, causing them to thin over time.

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.

Councilman Don 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.

That idea appears to have struck pay dirt, but Corkendorfer told The Voice earlier this week that council will re-look at that option once the painting and refurbishing is completed, which is expected to be as early as the end of this week.

With painting and repairs winding down, Corkendorfer told The Voice that council is planning an anniversary party to celebrate the tower’s 100th birthday. He said the event will happen on Sept 2, and will include food trucks, refreshments, a birthday cake and a movie that evening. Corkendorfer said more information about the party will be announced in the coming weeks.

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