We’re Laughing AT You, Not WITH You

From KSTP.com (really!) an incident that’s practically guaranteed to end up at juvie court:

City Not Laughing at Virginia (Minnesota)
Water Tower Prank

What was likely intended as a prank, is not amusing officials on the Iron Range. Police in Virginia say someone climbed up on the city water tower and changed the ‘n’ on ‘Queen City’ to an ‘r.’

The vandalism was discovered Monday morning. City officials say the vandalism took some effort, as the entire area is surrounded by barbed wired. The incident is being treating as a criminal investigation, and the water tower was re-painted a few hours after the discovery.

Was a Texas inmate’s vulgar note written on a piece of toilet paper and sent to a prosecutor constitutionally protected free speech? In a decisive landmark ruling, a federal appeals court ruled it is not. From cbs11tv.com,

Vulgar Note On Toilet Paper Not Protected Speech

In 2005, reacting to a motion from the state lawyer who urged an appeal in his case be dismissed, George Morgan (a convicted drug dealer) mailed her a note on toilet paper that basically instructed her to use the paper it for its intended purpose along with his opinion on her motion to dismiss. Then he signed it.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, upholding a lower court, said Texas prison administrators were within their authority when they docked George Morgan 15 days of good time credits for sending the note.

Morgan had appealed the docked credits within the prison system and lost, then took his arguments to the federal courts, insisting the First Amendment “protects his vulgar pen from penalty and that the Fourteenth Amendment protects his good time credits from loss,” according to the 5th Circuit’s description of the case.

Morgan first became eligible for parole in 2007. He remains at the Stevenson Unit outside Cuero in South Texas.

Your Towering English Country Estate

For less than the price of a slightly-fancy European automobile, you could own your very own European water tower! That’s the kind of status symbol that could completely deflate those BMW-driving show-offs, huh?

From www.eveshamjournal.co.uk,


PEBWORTH water tower owned by Severn Trent is one of 420 properties going under the hammer over the next 18 months. The water tower stands on 343 meters of land next to Manor Cottage and is up for auction on July 1 in London.

The ground at Pebworth is part of the first phase of sell-offs expected to raise millions for Severn Trent. The selling agent for the Pebworth Water Tower, Jason Birch from Kings Sturge Savills (Nottingham), expects the land to go for around £20,000 to £25,000.

He said: “It is big enough for a detached house to go on, but that depends on planning permission.”

Severn Trent Water’s director of property services said: “This first batch of properties are mainly small ones with likely values of between £25,000 to £50,000 each. The sort of thing people may buy to add to their gardens.”

Pebworth is a village in Worcestershire, by the way. I can’t dredge up a photo of the tower, but we can see on this detailed map that your tower is likely nestled somewhere between the east and west sewage treatment facilities.

You know you’re interested, so to get more information, “contact Mr Birch direct on 020 7087 5427 or register an interest in the portfolio at propertydisposals@severntrent.co.uk.

If a water tower seems a little daunting, enquire of Mr. Birch if there’s another property more to your liking…perhaps a modest little reservoir? According to Severn Trent’s website, “We’ve already had considerable interest in the sites, which could be anything from a patch of land containing a manhole cover through to a small, redundant reservoir.”

NIMBY Noisemakers Will Never Surrender

The hated tower, pre-paint job in Jan. 2008 (from uncle mike in knoxville on Flickr

Bring on the new development–condos, apartments, retail, we’re all for it! But wait. That big hulking water tower rising over our breathtaking mountain ridge view? Well, we’re NOT for that! Who knew it would be that big and ugly? For south Knoxville (Tennessee) water tower opponents, the fact that it’s already built hasn’t quelled the controversy, and a sky-blue paint job hasn’t impressed many of the locals. Can the opposition accomplish a knock-down in Knoxville? From WBIR.com,

May 29, 2009: The future is uncertain for a south Knoxville water tower that some consider an eyesore.

The Knoxville Utilities Board built the tower in December 2007 to provide better water pressure to south Knoxville residents. From the beginning however, some people said it was a blight on the city that should be torn down.

Knoxville City Councilman Joe Hultquist said there are serious negotiations with KUB to find an alternative to the tower. According to KUB officials, they plan to review any firm proposals brought to their attention. However, they said another tank would have to be placed nearby to provide the same level of service to customers.

Looks like KUB has a proactive public communications strategy in place to address the public’s concerns. Well, maybe not.

Thrills! Chills! Big-Budget Water Tower Destruction

Self-promoting corporate multi-media at its best! Here’s what happens when high production values are applied to a water tower demolition.

Testa Corporation used a tried and true ‘old school’ method to bring down the Simkins Industries 50,000 gallon water tower from the factory roof. By attaching cables near the top of the 80 foot tower and cutting the legs at the base the easily toppled the tower to the ground below.

And, they did it with thrilling camera cuts and cinematic music with momentum! (In fact, the crash feels a little anti-climactic!) 

Bat Girl Arrested After Scaling Water Tower

Holy Bat-Stunt, this was a great day for the power-quad of water towers, middle-aged women, outlet shopping and Canada! From Rick Vanderline for barrieadvance.com in central Ontario, Canada, 

A woman dressed as Bat Girl climbed to the top of the water tower at the Cookstown Outlet Mall jut before noon Saturday and unfurled a banner in the name of Fathers for Justice.

Firefighters from Bradford West Gwillimbury used an aerial ladder truck to climb to an upper platform of the tower to bring the unidentified woman down. Before the ladder was raised a lone firefighter climbed up the tower’s metal and spoke with the woman for about 10 minutes.

A large banner the woman hung from the side of the tower, which overlooks Highway 400, proclaimed the cause of Fathers for Justice, a group that has criticized Ontario’s Family Court system as being unfair to divorced fathers. The banner read: Parental Alienation Awareness; Love is For Everyone. The 49-year-old Alliston woman  is now facing charges of mischief as a result of the stunt.

Over at thebarrieexaminer.com, they’ve got some some exciting first-person perspective on the story:

Paulette MacDonald scaled the tower, outside of the Cookstown Outlet Mall, before 5 a.m. Saturday, but went unnoticed until 11:30 a.m. The 49-year-old Alliston woman said she had to call to mall patrons below to get the attention of mall security.

 “When he looked up at me perched up in the tower his chin hit the ground,” MacDonald said, adding that police and firefighters arrived shortly afterwards. “It was the first time that I’d done something like that. I was very scared, but I was more scared for what would happen to the future of our children.”

The Parental Alienation Canada Blog helps us get a sense of scale with some photos of the scene of the “crime” along with a remarkably prompt same-day press release.

Profits are Up for Ypsilanti Water Tower Photog

The unusual design of the Ypsilanti, Michigan Water Tower has sparked many a debate since it was erected (ha ha) in 1889. While the tower is a historic landmark, city officials bristle at the mention of its giggle-inducing architecture.

Enter Ann Arbor photographer, Shela Palkoski (shown here posing near the  tower). She has made entrepreneurial hay by re-interpreting the old joke with a bad-taste postcard which has sold thousands of copies in the past two years. In a July, 2007 story on blog.mlive.com, she says,

“I used to live across the street from the water tower and had to walk past it,” said Palkoski, who works under the name Miss SheLa. “I figure I’ve had a vision of that image for about five years, and I thought, ‘I’ve gotta do it before someone else does.'”

The cards show the legs of a woman in a short skirt, high heels and fishnet stockings standing over the tower. And the image has city leaders struggling to find a diplomatic way to react to the innuendo.

“The water tower has a historic marker,” said Mayor Paul Schreiber. “And it’s a very interesting thing if you look at the stonework.

OK, Mr. Mayor, you’ve got a point, but it’s hard, you know?

Here’s the text from the tower’s historical marker:

Day laborers constructed this water tower which was completed in 1890 at a cost of $21,435.63. The tower and the city waterworks supplied 471 customers in the first year. An ordinance passed on April 14, 1898 established a yearly rate schedule. Rates were based on the number of faucets in use, the type of business that customers operated and the livestock they owned. A residence with one tap was charged $5.00; a private bathtub cost an extra $2.00. Saloon keepers paid $7.00 for one faucet, $3.00 for each additional faucet and $1.00 for each billiard table. Each cow a person owned cost $1.00. People who failed to pay their bill were subject to a $50.00 fine and ninety days in the county jail. Until 1956 this structure was the only water tower in the Ypsilanti water system.

Anything for a Good Cause. Well, Almost.

I’ve seen this twice, so that makes it a trend! For now, it seems centered in the UK, but it’s a matter of time before they’re descending giant water towers on ropes in my ‘burb, all for the betterment of charity!

(Me, I’ll just send a check, thanks very much.)

The Harlow-based charity Motability, which helps disabled people acquire adapted cars and electric scooters, is looking for thrill-seeking volunteers to abseil* down the 110-ft water tower at Church Langley in May. Don’t worry, you’ll get “full training on the day with a safety briefing and all equipment provided.”

*We Americans refer to this as this rappelling.

Aren’t you just itching to put yourself in the harness of this previous participant?

At Poole last December, this event went just a little higher for their charity. From www.poolepeople.co.uk,

Daredevils in Dorset braved the cold to do an 120-foot abseil for charity this morning. CLIC Sargent’s Christmas Cracker Abseil at the Tower Park Water Tower in Poole aims to raise thousands of pounds for children and young people with cancer this Christmas.

The money raised by the 21 fundraisers will help CLIC Sargent to offer financial support to families who have a child with cancer. The charity also helps with holidays and homes away from home whilst the child is in hospital.

Don’t look for any boring pledge drives or banquets from this bunch. Emily Jenkins, CLIC Sargent’s local Events Fundraising Manager, notes that

“Our next fundraising project is going to be to organise a 20 foot fire walk. We hope it will be really popular and will help us to raise more money for children with cancer in 2009.”

Factoid footnote: Liability, anyone? Your charity can hire trained specialists to run these events for you, like Rock and Ice, whose website invites you to “See how easy it is to bring in £1,000’s for your charity.”

Buzzards DID foretell water misery for Gladewater!

Earlier this week, did you laugh at our juvenile superstitions over buzzards roosting atop the Gladewater, Texas water tower? Did you scoff at our contention that this was an unsettling, bad sign?

Well, look at this, left-brainers, we were right! The Feb. 26, 2009 news-journal.com reports the “breaking news” that LINE BREAKS LEAVE GLADEWATER WATERLESS.

The city of Gladewater was without water most of Wednesday after two breaks to a main water line in less than 24 hours.

The broken line was about 50 years old and connected the water plant to the Gay Avenue water tower, City Manager Jay Stokes said.

Due to the original break, Gladewater students didn’t begin classes until 10 a.m. Wednesday. After the second, the schools dismissed at 1:30 p.m.

“We had bottled water available for the students to drink, but there were health concerns involving the inability to use restroom facilities, so we dismissed early,” Superintendent J.P. Richardson said.
Schools will operate on a regular schedule today if the water problem has been resolved, he said.

City residences and businesses also were without water Wednesday.

“This is not a good position to be in,” Stokes said

“If we had a fire without adequate water pressure, it could be difficult to bring it under control. It’s also just uncomfortable and difficult for people to go about their daily business if they don’t have access to water in their homes and place of employment.”

Town is abuzz about water tower buzzards

It appears as if a sequel to Hitchcock’s The Birds is shooting on location atop the Gladewater, Texas water supply! Of course, buzzards and vultures have been spooking mankind for eons; from Disney cartoons to classic literature, they frequently portend dying and death. So naturally, city leaders are worried that, “if the birds remain on the tower, their droppings will ruin the paint, which would cost about $80,000 to reapply.”

From the Friday, February 20, 2009 news-journal.com,

City Manager Jay Stokes discussed buzzards — the ones roosting on the water tower — Thursday with the City Council. Stokes said he has had numerous complaints from residents about the birds and has counted up to 80 of them on the tower at one time.

The city had a problem with the buzzards several years ago and eliminated them by applying for a permit and shooting them, Stokes said. If the birds remain on the tower, their droppings will ruin the paint, which would cost about $80,000 to reapply, he said. It’s also possible the birds could damage telecommunications equipment on the tower, Stokes added.

“I’m open to any and all suggestions from council members or others in the community about how to deal with this,” Stokes said. “The main thing to emphasize is that we don’t want to spend money on a temporary solution. We need to find something that will keep them away.

Stokes asked the council if anything was off limits as far as considering ways to deal with the problem. Councilman Scott E. Owens said Stokes should investigate all possibilities and take whatever action is necessary to eliminate the birds or get them to relocate.

“While I will try to find some sort of other solution first, we may have to be open to the option of seeking a permit to destroy the buzzards,” Stokes said. “I don’t know that there’s any way to persuade them to roost at another location.”

Anti-cultural-ignorance footnote: In many non-Western cultures, buzzards are traditionally a good omen, foretelling happy times ahead with health, luck, or wealth.