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Tank's future given some city thought
Ceres city officials will be considering what to do with its highest - if not most prominent - landmark: the Ceres water tower.

The tank was emptied of water in the 1980s but officials left it in place and eventually hired a firm to paint painted and illuminate an American flag looming some 70 feet above its footings on Sixth Street. But the artwork is now marred by clusters of flaking paint and rust spots. Ceres officials are concerned about the future of the structure, already 74 years old.

"I have concerns that it's old and decrepit and that it should come down," said Interim City Engineer Mike Brinton.

City Manager Brad Kilger has directed Brinton to find a structural engineer to evaluate the tower's ability to withstand wind stresses and the elements of time.

"It has not been looked at in a while. It's got some rust on it and the design standards were different then. It's still standing though."

Brinton said a structural engineer will "tell us for sure if we can leave it up and paint it and make it look good or if it's structurally unsound."

He fired off an e-mail to Chicago Bridge & Iron Works, the firm that built the structure and which is still in business today. But he has not heard back.

A plaque attached to the northeast leg documents the year of the project as 1934.

The tower may present liability issues. Brinton said he's read reports in trade magazines of towers crashing to the ground. Then there are trespassers who have managed to climb it. Attached to all four legs are strands of nasty razor wire designed to keep adventurers off the tower. But graffiti on the tank bears witness to those brave souls who managed to scrambled up.

Brinton, who works part-time for the city of Manteca, said the council there has decided to remove a much larger tank of 300,000 gallons.

"It's going to be taken down," said Brinton of the Manteca tower. "We used it until last year, then they took the water out. We felt worried about it and we had a guy look at it and he said "Sure enough you need to take the water out.' It's stable if you leave the water out but then the City Council decided to take it out. Some time this year it will come down."

Former city engineer Joe Hollstein said he remembers one time when the city talked about removing the tower, prompting some residents to protest. Ceres Mayor Anthony Cannella said he understands the attachment, given its age. He said he may add the tower as an agenda item on a future council study session.

"I think it is a landmark in Ceres," said Cannella. "It needs to safe so it does not fall."

Cannella said if the tower is determined to be safe, the city may decide to have it painted and looking good.

Water towers were once required to get water pressure to households in communities in America. The technology was eventually replaced by modern force main pumps which acquired the pressure to send water through a series of community pipes. Ceres would have to erect multiple water towers to get the same pressure that is available today through ground level reservoirs and a variable speed pump.

"You can do that cheaper than building the tanks up in the air, and you accomplish the same thing," said Brinton.

Some cities have kept their towers as landmarks, such as Kingsburg, which added a handle and spout to become an artistic tea pot viewable from Highway 99. Sometimes the decoration can be humorous, as Granger, Iowa has two water towers, labeled HOT and COLD.