$39,000 approved to update water tank

TUPELO – The iconic water tower looming over east Tupelo will get a $39,000 paint job and could receive further improvements, like landscaping and a walking path.
In a split vote Tuesday, the City Council approved funding for the exterior paint job, which includes removing the current layer of paint, but Ward 1 Councilman Dick Hill said he worried about erosion inside the tank.
“I hate to be the devil’s advocate, but has anybody examined the inside of the tank?” Hill asked.
Ward 5 Councilman Bill Martin, who represents east Tupelo and lobbied for the paint job, said engineers had inspected the interior and deemed it sound.
But Tupelo Water & Light Manager Johnny Timmons later said his crew had inspected only the exterior and that he couldn’t speculate on the condition inside the tank.
The city hasn’t used the tank for drinkable water for years, Timmons said, but it’s about halfway full of stagnant water, nonetheless.
Hill and Ward 6 Councilman Mike Bryan voted against the measure, saying they support the renovation in theory but that the issue arose too hastily to seriously consider its merits.
The item had been placed on the council’s study agenda Friday but moved to its action agenda at the start of Tuesday’s meeting. Study agenda items are mulled for at least two weeks before the council takes action on them.
Martin, who steps down from the board next month, said residents in his ward had been trying to get the tank painted for a decade, and it was time to just do it. The work will revitalize the deteriorating tower and enhance the area, he said.
The water tower sits atop a hill looking over east Tupelo and is rumored to be a favorite spot of a young Elvis Presley, who’d climb the hill and play guitar as a boy.
At-Large Councilwoman Carolyn Mauldin agreed with Martin.
Mauldin, who also hails from east Tupelo and steps down next month, said she would like the tank to be inspected again prior to a paint job. If the tank is beyond repair, she said she will advocate for the money to not be spent.
“The money will sit in the account and raise interest until it’s ready to spend,” she said.
After the meeting, Martin said he hopes grant money will become available for landscaping and walking trails around the tank after it’s painted.

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz/Daily Journal