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The Great Pumpkin debate
Council decision Tuesday involves water, promoting pumpkins, cell service & a desire to have big US
A photo rendering of what the water tower on Wetmore Street could look like painted as a pumpkin. - photo by Photo illustration by Amy Aberer

Council candidate Ben Cantu wants to create a Manteca icon by painting the water tower on Wetmore Street to resemble a giant pumpkin in the sky.

He’s even offered to put up the first $100 to accomplish what could end up being a $150,000 makeover of the tower built in 1962.

Metro PCS has a valid contract with the city allowing it to build a 140 to 150 foot tall oil derrick-style cell tower at the new corporation yard that would also include all of the communication antennas on the 50-year-old water tower.

The water tower itself can no longer hold the 300,000 gallons of water it was designed for because seismic engineers have declared it unsafe to in the event of a major earthquake.

The parks maintenance department, which originally was going to be relocated to Wetmore requiring the tearing down of the water tower, no longer needs to do so since staffing changes and consolidations have put in place desired efficiencies.

Councilman Vince Hernandez expressed a preference to have the Metro PCS cell tower to be a monopole designed as a giant flag.

And, to top it off, the city may need a replacement water tower or tank to address long-term pressure issues.

Those five factors are being considered by the Manteca City Council on Tuesday when they meet to decide the fate of the water tower as well as of the cell and data tower in the municipal corporation yard. The council meets at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.

Four possible options outlined

City Manager Karen McLaughlin has outlined four possible options for the council.

• Retain the water tank and include funds in the 2012-13 budget to strip and repaint the tank. This would include a renegotiation of the ground lease with Metro PCS to permit Metro to use the city’s water tank instead of construction a new cell/data tower.

•Proceed with construction of the proposed cell/data tower with or without the “post flag” on top with subsequent removal of the water tower in 12 to 18 months.

• Consider the alternative of constructing an 80-foot-tall flag pole in front of the corporation yard administration building to accommodate a much larger flag. Funds would be included in the 2012-13 corporation yard expansion budget.

• Consider construction of a new water tank, either within the corporation yard or at a new, more-visible location in the southeast area of the city. A site has already been reserved for such a water tank on Atherton Drive just north of Woodward Avenue and west of Moffat Boulevard. Funds would be included in the 2012-13 budget.

General points about the issue

General points made in McLaughlin’s report to the council include:

• On Oct. 18, 2011 the council approved a lease agreement with Metro PCS to construct an antennae tower in the corporation yard. The agreement allows Metro PCS to construct a tower between 140 and 150 feet. After it is completed, the tower becomes city property. The city will then receive $2,000 per month over 25 years with a 3 percent annual escalation clause.

• The oil derrick-style or tri-pod design was proposed to meet other communication needs plus provide more stability and less swaying in windy conditions.

• It is critical that communication dishes now on top of the water tower that had been proposed to be relocated to the new tower have uninterrupted alignment of signals. The dishes provide numerous government and emergency services communication functions.

• A tri-pod tower is cheaper to build than a monopole tower. Also, sandy soil conditions at the corporation yard would require significant foundation work for a monopole of between 140 and 150 feet.

• The council when they approved the lease asked the staff to look at camouflaging the Metro PCS tower. The debate was between a “post flag” that is 10 by 20 feet and a “garrison” flag that is 20 by 36 feet. The flag has to be flown high enough so not to interfere with the other communication antennas. As a result, the “post flag” attached to a 20-foot flag on top of the tower was part of the design that was advanced to the Planning Commission for approval.

• The water tower - if it remains in place for use for both cell and data antennas - will have to be eventually repainted. The cost to do that is between $125,000 and $150,000 due to the need for the safe removal of lead paint, improvements to the ladder on the water tank, and new paint.

• Metro PCS is ready to start construction - and has the right to do so - now on the new tower rather than wait for the water tank beautification to be completed.

Issues related to a big flag

The flag creates additional issues.

• The flag will likely draw attention to the tower. That is positive assuming the council wishes to have the flag act as a type of landmark. It’s a negative if the intent is to construct a cell/data tower that blends into an industrial setting.

• The flag will likely have to be replaced every six months.

• The fire department’s aerial platform truck which has a reach of 100 feet will not be able to be used to replace the flag or perform any maintenance on the flag or antennas. Maintenance of the antennas on the water tower is currently contracted out as it requires special skills and certifications in order to be performed safely. The increased maintenance needed by having a flag atop the tower would make it necessary for city personnel to be trained to climb the tower as well as purchase additional safety equipment.

• Another option would be to construct a tall flag pole - as high as 80 feet perhaps - in front of the corporation yard administration building when work starts on that structure in six months. The cost would be incorporated into the corporation yard expansion It is likely that flag pole would draw attention away from the cell/data tower.

If the water tower remains in place, water funds cannot be used to repaint it. However, McLaughlin noted if Metro PCS agrees to use the water tower instead of building a new pole the lease money could offset the cost of the needed work.

The report does not address the additional cost that would incur - should the council opt to retain the water tower - in order to make it look like a pumpkin. Orange paint may suffice but anything beyond that such as lettering, accent pointing or even a stem on top would increase the cost of the paint project.

The council hasn’t taken a position on the water tower as a pumpkin although Mayor Willie Weatherford said he does not want to use city money to accomplish such a goal. He did add if someone in the community wanted to raise the funds needed that it would be OK with him assuming the water tower is kept and not torn down.