I wrote about this subject three years ago. And three years later nothing has been done.
If you haven't taken notice later, the next time you're in downtown, take a look at the historic water tower high above and ask yourself if its condition makes a positive or negative statement about Ceres.
It's ironic that both a group of downtown Ceres merchants and the city felt the 1934 water tower was a logical icon for use in future downtown marketing efforts, yet the tank looks very shabby today and it doesn't need to be.
The city's code enforcement officer should cite the City Council itself for keeping the most-seen landmark in blighted condition. They are, after all, the stewards of the tank. The lid on the tank is oxidizing and sporting a rusty color. The south side is blistering like the scales of a mermaid out of water too long, affecting the last letters of C-E-R-E-S. That happens to be the side to which northbound 99 motorists are most exposed - an estimated 106,000 motorists travel the highway each and every day. That's 38.7 million passes through Ceres per year. And while nobody has followed Joe Diffie's example by painting "Billy Bob Loves Charlene" in John Deere green, the city's been unable to prevent vandals from tagging the tank at the dizzying height.
Ceres is in a unique situation to make a statement in a downtown that is highly visible from Highway 99. But when I compare the Ceres water tower to other iconic features along Highway 99 - such as the Ripon interchange and water tower, the Merced Courthouse or the Kingsburg "tea cup" water tower - Ceres can and should do better. (While we're at it, I know the 1961 Paint Up Festival was Ceres' pride and joy but after 50 years it's probably time for that outdated and unattractive mural on the south side of the Odd Fellows Hall to be replaced.)
There's no question that we live in an age when government must be fiscally prudent, but has it occurred to the Ceres City Council that while it commissioned a $29,880 analysis of the tower's structural integrity to Cornerstone Structural Engineering in 2010, it could have spent a paltry sum to give it a temporary fix? This is a no-brainer: Paint the water tower, once again.
Cornerstone's expensive report, by the way, suggested the city spend a jaw-dropping $450,000 to rehab the tower despite its remaining remarkably sturdy. The council made the right decision in March 2011 to forego spending the $450,000 in redevelopment funds to revamp the tower. That's a staggering amount of money but contrast that sum with the $5,000 paint job given the tower in 2002 by Old World Signs of Stockton. Their work lasted nearly a decade until the elements took its toll. A new sport of paint would cost about a sixth of what the city spent on the $29,880 structural analysis.
By the way, in February 2002, the Ceres American Legion donated $500 to the city for the upkeep of the tank paint job. They did so out of patriotic pride of the eight-foot-tall, 15-foot-wide American flag painted on the tank wall. What must the Legionnaires think now that the paint on the flag is slowly chipping off?
At the time the city was mulling a possible rehabilitation, Mayor Chris Vierra surmised "at nearly half a million dollars it's hard for me to justify an iconic feature." To that I agree but disagree with his feeling that not many people pay the tower much attention. The mayor should consider that visitors to our homes, as an example, often spot things about our abodes - such as a corner of clutter - that we ourselves stopped noticing long ago because of familiarity. People do notice the tower; how could you not it for it towers 80 feet into the Ceres skyline?
I'm no metallurgist but I sense that the steel legs of the tower are as Cornerstone concludes. The council's 2011 decision to let it stand without rehabilitation tells me they think the tower is solid enough and poses no threat of crashing. Consider that the tank bears no water weight since it was drained decades ago and has little chance of falling.
A new paint job would do wonders by making it appear that the city spent a half million in rehabilitation as well as offer its obvious value for rust control.
Keep the tank where it is but just paint it. Re-do the American flag or come up with some neat design that makes people do a double-take. Downtown Ceres shows enough wear and neglect and the water tower doesn't need to continue adding any more to the mix.
How do you feel? Let Jeff know by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org