Floodgates on a new water tank in Frederick opened last week as the Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to approve a contract with Caldwell Tanks Inc. for construction of a tank on Butterfly Lane.
While the contract with Caldwell came in at a little more than $3 million, the purchase order for the structure was approved for about $3.5 million, with the acknowledgment that more money may be needed for unforeseen adjustments as the project evolves.
The decision to build a new tank at Butterfly Lane came after an assessment that began in May 2017 of the tower, which was originally constructed in 1973. According to Ron Wingfield, Department of Public Works manager for the city, the age and condition of the tank were leading factors in the decision to build a new structure.
“Constructing a new tank would provide the best value and the best overall long-term cost to the city of Frederick,” Wingfield said.
Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak, meanwhile, wondered what the new tank might look like as the project develops. In response, Wingfield said plans for the new tank will lean heavily on mimicking the north end tank on Hayward Road near Thomas Johnson Drive, which went into service in August 2017.
As for potential perks that the new structure will bring, Wingfield noted that the project will be constructed with added capacity in mind.
“We thought that with any future growth in that area, it would be ideal to go ahead and provide additional storage at this time while we’re making the investment,” Wingfield said, adding that the new tank will accommodate 1 million gallons of water. “You also don’t want to add storage and just have it sit there, so we added a mixing system to try and move the water around to help with that.”
Before the contract was approved, however, Frederick resident Watu Mwariama expressed skepticism about the project, labeling the water tower usage as old technology. Mwariama inquired about the city exploring other newer technologies in order to, as he put it, “make better use of $3 million.”
Wingfield assured Mwariama and the board that he and his team did explore the option of the most up-to-date technologies and because the system works on pressure and elevation, reconstructing the tank was in the best interest for not just the city, but its residents.
“We have to either build it on a mountain or we have to put it on an elevated storage tank,” Wingfield said of the city’s water system.
“It may be proof that in many instances, new technology is available to make our lives easier,” Mayor Michael O’Connor added. “But in some instances, the old technology is the best technology.”