Water tower makeover begins

Rehab project includes Tiger logo, temporary cell antenna

Princeton – The giant curtain gets pulled up soon in order to begin the rehabilitation of the 250,000-gallon water tower near Mark Park that makes for a major, $500,000 utility project.

Princeton Public Utility Manager Connie Wangen and Water Superintendent Scott Daniels said the major parts of the project will be sandblasting the inside of the tower to the bare metal and repainting its interior and exterior.
The tower will sport a new paint job that features dark blue at the bottom and light blue for the top, as well as the new Princeton Tigers logo developed by the school district this year. Workers will also replace valves and other hardware as needed.
Daniels said, “We just took it offline a week ago.”
He said the utility allowed water in the Mark Park tower to draw down and empty naturally so as not to dump much water from the tower. Princeton’s water will be supplied by its other two towers for the duration of project, which Daniels and Wangen said should be complete in about seven or eight weeks’ time.
Wangen said about the completion date, “We figure (the tower project will finish) by the end of September.”
Until then, the curtain will go up anytime crews are painting so that none of it blows or drifts. The two said there can be weather delays because crews cannot work if it is too windy or wet.
Daniels describes the curtain as a big canvas tarp that is nothing fancy, but to hang it took about two weeks and “quite a feat” of work, he said. The curtain has big rods at the top that move up and down via a trailer-mounted winch.
He and Wangen said the water tower was built in 1964 and sits 135 feet tall, about the same height as Princeton’s other two water towers. They said the outer coating of the tower has been replaced once. Rehabilitation of an old tower usually lasts about 20 or 25 years. They said materials used to build new water towers have improved to the point that new facilities have a projected lifespan of 100 years.
Wangen said, “The important part is on the inside, it’s where the water is.”
Scott agreed that most people judge the towers by what they see from the outside, but it’s the inside that counts most and that must meet health-department standards. He said there are three ways a water tower can be inspected: A swimming video camera, a person in a dinghy or a scuba diver.
Daniels said the most effective is probably the person in a boat since they can stop to closely inspect things. Essentially, inspectors check weld points, the thickness of the tower paint and interior hardware. A rehab project usually includes a few upgrades to meet codes that may have changed since the last project.
An inspection of the tower in 2016 showed the need for a full rehabilitation. Wangen said the utility commission discussed the project and looked at the extensive choices in paint colors. It was about then the idea came up to paint the Tigers logo onto the tower, which happened right about the time the school district was retooling its Tiger-logo image.
Wangen said the choice especially made sense since Mark Park sits close to the high school and baseball fields. She said there was quite a bit of coordination involved in creating the specific colors that make the Tiger, which will show on two sides of the tower. Asked if the school district had shared the logo-paint expense of approximately $10,000, Wangen said no.
“We thought it would be something fun and good to do,” Wangen said, “we thought it would be a good chance to display our school spirit.”
She and Daniels said the firm TMI out of St Paul is performing the tower-rehabilitation work, the same firm that rehabbed the tower in the late 1990s, and KLM Engineering of Lake Elmo performed the water-tower inspection.
They said the utility achieved a little bit better pricing by scheduling the project for late summer, which is usually peak water-usage time. Princeton has enough capacity to take one of its towers completely out of service yet still meet the city’s water needs.
They said the daily crew would consist of a handful of people who would be working the curtain, doing the welds and painting, as well as an on-site inspector. Wangen emphasized that safety would be key as workers move up, down and around the tower.
Daniels said, “Every bit of paint is inspected before it goes in.”
He and Wangen said the project is moving along as expected except for one detail: Cellular service. The utility has been taking calls from citizens complaining about their Verizon and T-Mobile cell phone service.
They said the cellular antenna on the Mark Park water tower had to be removed and was re-erected on a temporary pole for the duration of the painting project. Wangen and Daniels said they and the other utility employees have also noticed a difference in their cell phone service.
While they know what has probably happened to people’s cell service, they’re only able to advise citizens to call their cellular provider for possible solutions. Some users have speculated that use of a network extender (signal booster) might help until the antenna is permanently affixed back to the water tower.