Ripon has the 170-foot plus Twin Water Towers — one branded with Ripon’s name and the city seal and the other with “Mistlin Sports Park” with a giant soccer ball painted on top for the benefit of those flying over the community of 17,000.
Lathrop along Interstate 5 has a water tank with the city’s name incorporated with art work that includes the sun.
Stockton’s water tanks have numerous messages and art work promoting the city that touts itself as “California’s Sunrise Seaport.”
Manteca’s aging 56-year-old water tower on Wetmore Street on Wetmore Street that no longer holds water due to seismic safety issues has plain letters reading “Manteca”. The city’s water tanks that top out at 37 feet on Lathrop Road east of Lathrop Road and on Atherton Drive north of Woodward Avenue are blank canvasses.
The City of Manteca could be making the two water tanks less non-descript.
City Manager Tim Ogden at last week’s council meeting floated a staff idea that the centennial banners now lining Yosemite Avenue in downtown as well as the Civic Center campus on Center Street be duplicated on the two water towers.
It’s not the first time staff has suggested dressing up the water tanks.
Back in 2013 when the 3.7 million gallon water tank on Atherton Drive was getting ready to go out to bid, staff asked if the council that was in place at the time wanted to dress up the tanks.
It was an idea that council embraced at the time with then Councilman Steve DeBrum emphasizing the bottom line was making sure the surface was graffiti-proof. The city did put a finish on the tank to combat graffiti but the suggestion for art work went nowhere after public input was sought.
One suggestion was to commission the Manteca Mural Society to come up with a mural design. Another from younger municipal staff members was for an icon to be placed on the top of the tank so that when Manteca is Googled someone viewing an aerial shot or if someone is flying over they would see a design atop the water tank that branded the city.
When asked about price at the time, staff placed water tank art work at between $50,000 and $100,000 based on the experiences of other cities. The current staff idea would be a sliver of that amount not just because the design is already completed but because it could possibly be done with a lower cost technology.
The water tank art proposal quickly became a political hot potato.
It was slammed by then mayoral candidate Ben Cantu who is running again this November. He not only slammed the idea of spending up to $100,000 on water tank art when the city had other pressing news but dismissed a mural as ineffective given a sound wall would only make the top 17 feet of the water tank visible from Highway 99 assuming it could be picked out in gaps among buildings between the freeway and the water tank.
In a letter published five years ago, Cantu said in 1993 when he was on the municipal payroll as a planner and staff was first considering water tanks, he advocated placing the tanks along the 120 Bypass and Highway 99 “so they could be utilized for advertising the community.” He noted his suggestion was rejected.
Cantu in 2012 led an unsuccessful effort to have the Wetmore water tower designated as a historic landmark. At the time a consultant placed a $2.1 million price tag on bringing it up to earthquake standards. The city was able to get significantly more storage and improve water pressure throughout a larger swath of Manteca by building the Atherton Drive water tank.
Cantu at one point pushed for the city to paint the Wetmore water tower tank orange and have graphic work down to make it look like a pumpkin in honor of Manteca’s signature crop. Nearly 80 percent of California’s commercial pumpkin crop destined for Halloween use is raised in the fields around Manteca hence why the city hosts the annual Pumpkin Fair the first weekend in October.
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