John Harris is a history buff and a die-hard Mantecan.
He doesn’t relish the fact that in the next couple of years the city water tower off South Main Street on Wetmore Street is going to be torn down. At one time nine years ago he pushed to have the tower painted orange and accented with the right colors to make it look a giant pumpkin to symbolize the crop most identified with Manteca
But as a Manteca City councilman Harris has to be a bit more pragmatic. A 2006 seismic study by the structural engineering firm of Showerman Hawn & Stone essentially red tagged the tower. It is not structurally sound enough to withstand a major earthquake.
The report stated the weight load demand on the tension rods and compression struts was estimated at being 300 percent of their existing capacity for the tower built in 1962.
Once the city received that report, they drained the 300,000 gallon tank and worked on other ways to enhance water pressure in the central part of the city.
“If it is seismically unsafe, it has got to come down,” Harris said.
The city looked into retrofitting it and found out it would cost $2.1 million to meet current state earthquake standards. The city could build almost two million gallon tanks such as the one on Lathrop Road near Union Road and on West Yosemite Avenue in front of the wastewater treatment plant for that price.
The upgrade of the corporation complex on Wetmore calls for it to be torn down when the third phase starts sometime in the next two years.
Replacement tower for antennas will net city $775,000
On Tuesday, the City Council is being asked to approve a deal to have Metros PCS build a replacement cell tower that the city would then be able to move antennas on top of the existing water tower to at the corporation yard complex.
The 150-foot tower will cost Metro PCS $50,000 to put in place. The city would piggyback on the tower with antennas used for fire dispatch, ham radio disaster assistance, city communications and even one used by the Manteca Unified School District. The deal calls for Metro PCS to be charged $2,000 a month to lease the tower. Each year there would be a 3 percent increase in the lease payment.
Metro PCS would have the lease payment waived for the first two years so they can recoup the cost of installing the tower.
Metros PCS would have a 25-year lease. The city, over the duration, would receive $800,000 versus $25,000 or $1,000 a year in maintenance and upkeep costs. That would mean the general fund would net $775,000 or $33,695 on average annually for the 23 years that payments are made after Metro PCS recoups the cost of installing the tower.
Effort will be made to designate landmarks
Still there are those in the community who see it as another landmark being lost including Ben Cantu, a retired city planner who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2010.
Cantu - like Harris - was an advocate a number of years back - to paint the tower orange so it would look like a pumpkin.
While Harris aggress with Cantu’s basic assertion the city should work to save and preserve landmark structures before they disappear, the councilman believes the water tower isn’t a proper candidate given the fact it is unsafe and costly to retrofit.
Harris is hopeful that those who have expressed disappointment with the water tower being torn down could help form an effort to identify and possibly devise city policies to designate landmark buildings.
He noted the city is currently partnering with the Hope Family Shelter to retrofit the family shelter at Yosemite and Sequoia avenues to restore the look the building had when it opened in 1919 as Manteca’s first hospital during the Flu Epidemic.
Other buildings that Harris personally believes need some type of municipal protection or at least designation as landmark structures include the Old City Hall brick building on Sycamore Avenue, the house Manteca pioneer Ed powers built that is immediately west of the museum as well as one across the street - the Cottrell House.
“I still wish we could have saved the old bell tower at Manteca High and found a use for that,” Harris said.
The 25-member 2020 Vision Task Force in 1998 touched slightly on the need for identifying significant buildings that are worth preserving but nothing further came of it.
The Manteca Historical Society has developed a walking tour of landmarks in the downtown district and has a map available for those who are interested.