By Al Stanek
Whitewater Banner volunteer staff
A recent ‘Whitewater Banner’ article about plans to replace the Starin Park Water Tower generated questions from a number of readers interested in what will happen to the 131-year old structure when a replacement is completed as planned in late 2022.
The ‘Banner’ contacted Whitewater City Engineer Brad Marquardt as well as a local historic resource consultant and a member of the City of Whitewater City Landmarks Commission for clarification. The Landmarks Commission designated the structure as a City Landmark in 2016.
Marquardt indicated that that there has been little discussion so far on the issue of what will happen when the structure is no longer needed. The tower, often referred to as the “Witches Tower,” has a capacity of 180,000 gallons and is planned to be replaced by a new structure with a minimum capacity of 500,000 gallons. The project was recently fast-tracked due to the limited time availability of funds being returned to the Community Development Authority (CDA).
Historic Resource Consultant Carol Cartwright, a local resident, told us that the designation as a City Landmark does provide some protection from demolition. “City Landmark designation protects the structure from any inappropriate alterations and/or demolition,” said Cartwright. She pointed out, however that the structure is City of Whitewater property and that the City Common Council would have some flexibility if it is determined that demolition is the preferred option. Cartwright referenced an effort in nearby Fort Atkinson where citizens conducted a fundraising drive to make necessary repairs and to preserve to a similar vintage water tower.
Cartwright and Whitewater Landmarks Commission member Patricia Blackmer referred us to Chapter 17 of the City’s Code of Ordinances. Chapter 17 indicates that “After a public hearing, the City Council may, by a favorable vote of two-thirds of its members, reverse or modify the decision of the landmarks commission.” That type of action would apparently remove any protection against demolition.
At this point in time the City appears to be focused on taking steps to build a replacement water tower by the end of 2022. The roughly $800,000 of CDA funds come with a requirement that the estimated $2.9 million project break ground by the end of this year and be completed in 2022.