Safety concerns have the city planning to remove both the water tower over City Hall and the live oak tree in the center of Veterans’ Memorial Park.
Mayor Lester Hadden said every time a strong windstorm blows through town, he worries about the old, rusted tower and the tree’s dying limbs and the damage and injuries they could cause.
“It’s dangerous and needs to come down,” Hadden said of the water tower. “Not only is it old and difficult to work on, requiring a crane to reach the top because it’s no longer safe to climb, but it’s also covered in old lead paint.”
The tank was a part of the city’s first waterworks system, built after a November 1925 bond vote.
Hadden said the emergency communications antennas used by the county’s 911 services are on the water tower, but those devices are expected to be moved.
“Once the new tower is up, we want to spend a couple of weeks making sure that it is working like it needs to, and then we’ll begin making preparations to take down the water tower,” Hadden said.
The scrap metal in the tower is likely to be a part of the deal with the contractor who takes it down, the mayor said.
“We looked at what it would take to take care of the water tower,” Hadden said. “It’s going to cost around $17,000, we think, to take it down, but it would be $85,000 to fill it with concrete and paint it, and that doesn’t even cover the danger of it falling. The footings are rusting out. It just isn’t safe.”
Hadden said the contractor who takes the tower down will cut it up and sell it for scrap, using the price he gets for the scrap metal to offset the city’s cost.
The oak tree in the veterans’ park behind the city’s post office is much older than the water tower. A paved skating rink surrounded it for more than 50 years before the park was built.
The city and its Better Hometown organization are afraid that storms and strong winds will eventually break off the tree’s limbs, which could damage the park’s benches, tables, brickwork, signs and monuments.
Tony Otis, the owner and operator of Otis Tree Service, said he believes that when the grading work was done for the park, the oak’s root system might have been disturbed.
“It’s everything coming together,” Otis said. “The damage, the weather … If the city doesn’t do something soon, one of those dead branches is going to fall out and do some real damage to the park.”
Wrens Better Hometown members Peggianne Chalker, Peggy Sheppard and Walter Hannah all said they would rather find some way to keep the tree, but after talking to people about it over the last few years, they have accepted that it is going to have to come down.
“We just hate to do this,” Chalker said. “We would much rather be able to keep the tree where it is, but it’s just hanging in there and it doesn’t look like we’re going to be able to save it.”
Under the tree is the city’s veterans’ memorial, which bears 780 names of area men and women who have served in the armed forces.
There are at least that many available bricks already in place for names to be added to the memorial in the future.
At $50 a brick, the Better Hometown members are afraid that if pieces of the tree damage the memorial, they will not have the money to repair or replace them.
“There’s probably $15,000 to $16,000 in the message boards, tables and benches alone,” Sheppard said. “It’s a beautiful old tree. We treated it and they’ve cut out the bad limbs.
“I just don’t know what else we can do.”