The Town of Elon’s water tower is being reconstructed to bring the design up to industry standard. This means increased safety and efficiency for the utilities employees who man the tower as well as increased cell coverage for Elon’s citizens.
The tower received its last update in 1990, according to Scottie Wilkins of The Elon Department of Public Works and Utility Services, who recently spoke at a Board of Alderman Council Meeting. To keep the tower’s tank running smoothly, Wilkins said it needs to be re-coated and re-insulated.
Last year, ice storms prompted the Town of Elon Department of Public Works and Utility Services to bolster the water tower with increased insulation and support beams, but Wilkins and the rest of department believed that the temporary protective adjustments made can only last the tower so long. It would benefit from a total redesign.
Such a redesign includes reinforcing the cables that root the tower to the ground and working on the welding of the tank, which Wilkins refers to as “improper” in its current state. Once these changes are made, utility services believes the water tower will have a much longer projected lifespan.
One significant structural change is being made to the cellular service antennas, owned by AT&T, currently situated around the handrails of the water tower. The design was functional when it was built, but maintenance workers have found it increasingly difficult to navigate the tower to monitor water quality, according to Wilkins.
The placement of the antennas is currently obstructive, making navigation around the “catwalk” of the tower potentially dangerous. Wilkins also said the apparatus which transports workers up and down the tower is hindered by any and all cellular antennas there.
Utility services and the Town of Elon are currently in the process of building what Richard White, town manager of Elon, refers to as a “corral.” This circular structure will provide a new basis for the cellular antennas atop the tank, so they are no longer trouble for maintenance workers. Other municipalities in North Carolina who have adopted this construction include Burlington, Gibsonville and Mebane.
“I wouldn’t call what the tower has ‘issues,’” White said. “The addition of a corral just makes it more structurally sound. This will make the tower even safer.”
The tower needs to be repainted as well, since it has been two decades since its last paint job.
“The construction of the corral allows us to rearrange cables that go up the water tower in such a way that makes it easier for the painters to actually work on the tower,” White said.
AT&T, who operates the antennas that moderate cell coverage from the top of the tower, is undertaking this project in conjunction with the Town of Elon and the utilities department. The corporation provided the majority of the funds for the corral and the repositioning of the antennas to the peak of the tower.
Meanwhile, the rest of the funds needed to repair the tank are being managed by the utilities department itself, according to White. Wilkins told the Board of Alderman that AT&T predicts a higher position of the antennas will mean a stronger cellular signal throughout Elon.
But increased coverage for mobile phones and safety for Public Works and Utility Services employees are not the only changes coming to Elon’s water tower. The new paint job includes a redesigned logo, which features a sharp, contemporary letter “E” against a teal background. This logo is distinctly unlike the picture decorating the tank currently and contrasts all traditional designs representing the town and Elon University.
White said the idea for a new logo was created as a part of the “downtown mass division plan,” and was drawn by private consultants prior to his appointment as town manager. He said that this plan is intended to rebrand the image of downtown Elon and that the modernized logo is one of the steps is doing just that. The branding will cost the Town of Elon around $1,500.
Construction on the water tower has already begun. White confirmed that the corral is almost completed. Work on welding, cables and outdated features of the tank will continue into the month.
As for the new, contemporary logo for downtown Elon, The Board of Alderman will vote to approve it early next month.