Common Council Fast-tracks Replacement of Starin Park Water Tower

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Image of the Starin Park Water Tower from a Whitewater Spirit Tour

By Al Stanek
Whitewater Banner volunteer staff
January 20, 2021

The Whitewater Common Council took several steps to fast-track replacement of the 131 year old Starin Park Water Tower at their January 19 regular meeting. A recent city water systems study identified the replacement as a high priority. Replacement is expected to cost just under $3 million and is scheduled for completion by the end of 2022.

The 1889 built structure, often referred to as “Witches’ Tower” by nearby UW-Whitewater students, was designated as a local landmark in 2016 by the Whitewater Landmarks Commission. A ‘Wisconsin Historical Markers’ article refers to it as the second oldest operating municipal water tower in the state. Its 180,000 gallons of water is part of the city’s reserve and helps maintain adequate water system pressure for city businesses and residents. It is expected to be replaced by at least a 500,000 gallon structure on the city’s southwest side.

The project has been fast-tracked primarily because of the availability of roughly $800,000 of City Community Development Authority (CDA) funding which is being used to soften the cost of city borrowing for the project. The CDA funds have become available because of the close out of a federal Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) program. The project must begin construction by the end of this year and be completed by the end of 2022 to qualify for use of RLF close-out funds. City Public Works officials and an outside engineering consultant indicated that the timeline is reasonable but aggressive. It will require acquisition of a minimum one-acre parcel of privately owned land.

The City Public Works Committee considered as many as five high ground potential sites on the southwest side in the general vicinity of the Walworth Avenue area west of the High School. A southwest side location is expected to better balance city water pressure on the west side of town. The Public Works Committee serving as the project’s Citizens’ Participation Plan Committee solicited comments from area residents and held a public input session on January 12. Over 20 residents commented on the potential location with the consensus that it should not be too close to existing residential areas.

An engineering study was conducted which considered the pros and cons of several locations. The Common Council decided to move forward on a site in the general area of the City’s Well #9 which is just south of the STH 12 bypass. The area is accessible by a currently blockaded road that leads to a bridge over STH 12 often referred to as “the bridge to nowhere.”

Other Common Council actions taken on January 19th included the adoption of a revised City Sign Ordinance that is intended to be more user friendly to businesses and non-profit organizations and to bring the City’s Sign Ordinance up to modern practices standards required by a US Supreme Court Ruling. Council also had an initial review of the City Manager’s 2020 Annual Report, 2021 Management Plan, and the City Manager’s Annual Performance Evaluation, approved a liquor license for Taqueria La Estrella (formerly Las Chicas), amended sewer cross connection ordinances, approved the first reading of amendments to city committee member term limit ordinances and approved a 2021 Memorandum of Understanding with Downtown Whitewater, Inc.

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