By Alex Bridges
A controversial proposal to build a new water tower in Strasburg moved another step forward but town leaders still may take a different direction.
The town faces a November 2013 deadline to spend $850,000 in funds left over from the construction of a new water treatment facility. Patton, Harris, Rust & Associates conducted a study of the town's water service priorities that indicated Strasburg needs a new storage tank.
At a work session Monday, Strasburg Town Council agreed to spend $5,500 of the remaining funds to have Patton, Harris, Rust & Associates conduct a preliminary geotechnical study of one of the two possible sites eyed for a new water tower.
But Mayor Timothy Taylor told members of the audience, some of whom expressed concern over the proposed sites for a tower, that council needs more information before they can move forward.
Town Manager Judson Rex compared the test to a CAT scan that would offer an overall look under the soil at the site, spot potential voids and rock. Karl Schaeffer, associate vice president, gave more details about what the study can provide.
Town Council last month heard opposition from residents who live near both sites. The town owns property near the Crystal Hill subdivision but the study also identified land in the Pouts Hill area by Stoney Pointe as a possible location for a tower.
In response to a resident who asked whether the town considered other sites, Schaeffer informed council and the audience that the firm and staff looked at six or seven sites but eliminated most for feasibility reasons.
Council met in closed session prior to the Monday meeting to discuss the sale or purchase of property. Mayor Timothy Taylor said he couldn't disclose details but he did indicate council continues to discuss the possibility of buying another property site for a water tower.
Several council members suggested staff look at spending the $850,000 to replace aging water service lines. However, staff and the PHR&A representative told council replacing lines would not solve problems of inadequate water pressure.
"What the water modeling exercise did is identify core problems that effect the delivery of pressure and capacity in the system," Rex said, adding that the study didn't look necessarily at lines in need of replacing.
The town allocates money to replace lines through its maintenance budgets and problem areas are identified in the capital improvement plans, Rex noted.
"I mean it seems like we're constantly fixing lines," said Councilman Scott Terndrup. "I guess I'm just not understanding why that's not a problem."
"It is a problem and that's why we budget money for it," Rex said.
Some council members suggested the town use the money to replace water lines and free up the previously allocated funds for other needs.
Council had asked staff to list other water service needs the town could fund with the remaining money. The town could spend the money on an emergency power generator and a mixer for the tank on Va. 55. As Rex explained, the town also could install a new water main from Crystal Lane to Fulton Drive, an improvement necessary whether they build a tank at Pouts Hill or Crystal Hill. A tower at Pouts Hill requires a water main to Bowman Mill Road and to East King Street. The list of needs also includes a new water main to Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Councilman Don Le Vine expressed skepticism about the geotechnical testing and whether it would provide enough information on the soil and rock before the project moves forward.
"Once we start digging, then we're committed and then you really have to throw more money down the hole," Le Vine warned.
The town would seek a full geotechnical study on the site before proceeding with the project, Rex said. Such a study would identify issues that would make building a tower on the sites difficult or impossible.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or email@example.com