Terrytown votes to remove water tower

Terrytown's water tower has stood over the community since the city was founded in 1949 and has become a local landmark. At its May 7 meeting, the Terrrytown City Council voted to remove the tower, citing the long-term cost of maintenance and insurance.

Citing the high cost of maintenance over the long term, members of the Terrytown City Council unanimously voted to take down the city’s landmark water tower.

“Originally, I was in favor of keeping the water tower,”  council member Mike Minzey said. “It’s the last structural piece of anything in Terrytown that actually relates to Terry Carpenter.”

He cited a list of businesses started by Carpenter that no longer exist, from the Carena Drive-In Theater, Copper Kettle Restaurant, Terry’s Arena, Terry’s Store, KTCI Radio and more.

Noted entrepreneur and politician Terry Carpenter built the town in the late 1940s and erected the water tower to provide water service. Since then it’s been a landmark identifying Terrytown and its place in the community.

Minzey said that while he’s in favor is keeping the tower as a historic cultural icon; it would be cost prohibitive for a small town.

“I’m concerned about the economic impact on the city,” he said. “We could have covered annual maintenance by leasing space on the tower to communications companies. But there are also some heavy duty costs periodically, like removing the lead-based paint on the tower and repainting it.”

Minzey said the city isn’t in a financial position to support the extra costs for long-term maintenance plus insurance for any liability issues.

Some people in the community have suggested applying for grant funding to keep the tower in its current location at the edge of the Bellevue Addition at Five Rocks Road.

Minzey said grant funding is usually for short-term projects, not for ongoing maintenance. Plus, if the grant funding ever dried up, the city would have to foot the entire bill.

Oshkosh, in Garden County, will be keeping its historic water tower. However, all the maintenance, insurance and other work is being financed by a private, non-profit group and not the city. Minzey said that because of Terrytown’s demographic makeup, he didn’t see the kind of support like Oshkosh was able to assemble.

“I’m disappointed about the vote to take down the water tower and so will a lot of others,” said Kent Greenwalt, Terrytown’s first mayor. “Terry Carpenter did so much good out here in his town and in this end of the state. The water tower is the last of the legacy he left us.”

Terrytown City Engineer Jeff Wolfe said it’s always hard to lose a piece of local history. He lived in North Platte when the World War II era North Platte Canteen was torn down.

“We might keep that parcel of land the water tower sits on for future use,” Wolfe said. “Maybe the city can put up some kind of sign or marker saying welcome to Terrytown. It’s unfortunate, but most people from out of town don’t even know Terrytown exists.”

The State of Nebraska has offered financial help to a number of communities for projects such as water tower removal. They’re offering the same for Terrytown, but the time on the offer isn’t unlimited.

With that in mind, Wolfe said now is a good time to remove the water tower, a project that will cost in the $30,000 to $40,000 range. The state has money already set aside to help.

Now that the Terrytown City Council has voted to remove the water tower, the city must inform the communications companies their equipment must be removed from the tower.

Wolfe will then assemble a plan for a bidding process for companies that would like to do the work.

“There’s no urgent rush to take down the tower,” Minzey said. “We’ll work through the process and get the job done.”

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Jerry Purvis is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9046 or emailed at jpurvis@starherald.com.

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