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140-foot cell tower rises on city land along Wetmore St.
Crews were placing antennas on the 140-foot cell tower on Thursday. - photo by DENNIS WYATT

It looks like a 140-foot cell tower.

The tripod tower going up east of the new municipal vehicle maintenance facility on Wetmore Street is more than that. It represents more than $775,000 in net City of Manteca revenue over 23 years starting in late 2014.

The Metro PCS tower will stand “rent free” on city property for two years to allow the firm to recover the $50,000 cost of installing the tower. After that, the annual $25,000 lease payment with a 3 percent annual increase would go to the city’s general fund. The $775,000 the city is projected to net factors in annual escalation clauses and $1,000 a year in upkeep.

Public Works Director Mark Houghton on Thursday indicated the various communication antennas on the existing water tower will be moved to the new tower over the next several weeks. It includes communication for fire dispatch, Manteca Unified school buses, ham radio for disaster assistance, and other government communications.

The next step in the transformation of the corporation yard services that straddle Wetmore Street is the demolition of the 50-year-old, 300,000 gallon capacity water tower that has been without water for nearly 10 years. That’s because state-mandated seismic studies showed that - with water - the tower could not withstand a major earthquake. The structural engineering firm of Showerman Hawn & Stone determined the weight load on the tension rods and compression struts were at 300 percent of the existing capacity. The city immediately drained the water from the 300,000 gallon tank.

Houghton said a timetable has not been established for the demolition of the water tower. The impending demolition has struck a nerve with some who view it as a historic landmark and argue it should be preserved.

If the water tower stays in place, it will need to be repainted and minor repairs made including making the ladder safe to use. There is lead paint that law would require to be removed. Once the repairs, paint removal and painting are factored into the equation staff estimated it would cost $125,000 to $150,000 to leave it in place. That is the cost before any cosmetic improvements are made such as converting it into a giant pumpkin as some detractors of the council have suggested.

Had the council opted to retrofit the structure so it would again function as a water tower the price tag was $2.1 million.

Improvements to the water pipelines in and near downtown coupled with the addition of surface water drastically reduced the need for the water tower especially at its current location.

The City Council in June hired Kennedy/Jenks Consultants for $136,205 to design a 2 to 4 million gallon water storage tank along Atherton Drive just north of Woodward Avenue with the goal to start construction sometime in 2014.

The most immediate area impacted will be city water customers south of the 120 Bypass.

Staff has indicated where the tank is going “is on the high side of town” it would help provide a pressure safeguard for much of the rest of the city as well.

Water storage is considered critical in emergencies.

During the late 1990s when heavy use during a 105-degree heat wave knocked off much of the Western States power grid, Manteca’s available water supply for fighting fires dropped to precariously low levels. People home for the evening and unable to cool off with air conditioning  resorted to going to their front yards and turned on water for children to play in.

At the time, Manteca relied 100 percent on well water.

The city’s current combined surface and water and well water system wouldn’t put Manteca in the same exact position although growth has increased demand in the event of a prolonged electrical outage.

The project also will require building a booster pump station to serve peak water demands of existing customers.

The proposed location is along the east side of Atherton Drive just north of Woodward Avenue in southeast Manteca. A sign noting that “the future site” of a water storage tank has been standing on city-owned land for years facing the bike path. The city will need to obtain additional land immediately to the south for the project.

The storage tank is more than likely to be similar to ones that already exist and are squat-style ground tanks that can be found on Lathrop Road east of Union Road and in front of the municipal wastewater treatment plant on West Yosemite Avenue across from the ACE passenger station. Each of those tanks holds more than a million gallons of water.