The Strasburg Town Council is considering having the Fort Hill water tank repainted in April or May.
The approximately three-month project was discussed at Tuesday's council work session as the town is looking to add a halo to the water tower to include Verizon Wireless with the other cellular service providers on the tank.
While considering repainting the tower for its regular maintenance about every 10 years and the halo project, it was discovered that the tank’s paint base was chipping and is estimated to be from the 1940s or 1950s, Public Works Director Jay McKinley told council this week. Because of the chipping, any new paint to the tower won’t stick.
“It could still be the 1930s original base coat. We’re not sure,” said McKinley. “Either way we look at it, it is failing.”
The paint on the tower was also recorded to have lead in it at the rate of 80,400 parts per million. Lead at a rate of 1,000 ppm is the threshold of when mitigating efforts need to be taken, McKinley said.
“This stuff is just loaded with lead,” he said, adding the tank’s rate was one of the highest he’s ever seen.
Because of the lead, the work to repaint the project will require placing a drape around the tower that will have to hold negative pressure, McKinley said. That way, when the tower is sandblasted down to the bare metal, which needs to be done before painting, that lead paint won’t impact the surrounding area.
The total cost to renovate the exterior is $489,096, McKinley told council. The cost of containing and disposing of the hazardous lead paint material is $165,534 of the total cost.
Suez, which has a maintenance contract with the town for the tower, would not cover hazardous waste materials and would pay for only $323,562 of the costs, McKinley said. The town would have to foot the hazardous material costs.
Suez has offered to do hazardous material work with payment from the town that could be spread over five years with a no-interest loan. That would be a $33,107 cost per year for the town. Bills wouldn’t be applied until the start of the next fiscal year in July 2021.
Funding would need to come from the water fund balance, which is thoroughly healthy at over $2 million, Town Manager Wyatt Pearson said at a previous infrastructure meeting.
Also at that previous meeting, McKinnley said a bulk of the work would need to be done with the tank out of service. But the town does have “cycle-stop” valves to pressurize the system without the tank. They were used during the three-month project of renovating the interior of the tank around the end of 2019. There would be an associated electrical cost by using the valves instead of the tank but that would be minimal overall, McKinley said.
“It needs to be done,” Vice Mayor Ken Cherrix said during the work session, and it’s a matter of doing it now or later when it really needs to be done. During the previous infrastructure meeting, he suggested the idea of paying the project off at once to not carry any debt with it.
The cellular service providers using the tower now would need to set up a temporary tower next to the water tower to hold their antennas, and that should not greatly impact service, Pearson and McKinley said. The antennas need to be pulled off the tower to install the halo, so the idea is to renovate the exterior at the same time that is done, McKinley said.
In addition to notifying residents immediately surrounding the tank, the entire town needs to be notified of the process to ensure they will be safe, McKinley said.
The infrastructure committee recommended the project last month. During that meeting, Councilwoman Taralyn Nicholson asked about it being lit before and with an American flag on it. Painting it a different color or putting a different logo on it would be an additional expense, McKinley said.
That previous infrastructure committee meeting also provided a presentation on a potential study on the North Massanutten corridor, which is roughly along North Massanutten Street from King Street up to where North Massanutten Street starts to bend. The study could help attain funding sources for any potential traffic and pedestrian improvements with the corridor.
The meeting also included a discussion on a water model that found fire flows on the east side of town have improved after Crystal Lane to Dickerson Lane and Fulton Drive connectors were put in.
The model also recommended improvements to 3,900 feet of water mains in town, increasing capacity to Sandy Hook and Signal Knob schools due to low fire flows, and a new water tower that would pay for itself over time instead of a Signal Knob reservoir that is currently in-ground, high maintenance and uses a lot of electricity.