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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.

Smiley, Facebook Cause Célèbre

UPDATE: Feb. 17, 2009, a sad day for Smiley. “After repeated stays of execution during the past two years, the Grand Forks City Council decided Tuesday to pull the switch on the 77-year-old water tower.” The rest of the story here.

UPDATE: Smiley gets a reprieve…On Feb. 2, “Council members spent more than an hour Monday discussing the old tower before voting 4-3 to seek bids to for saving it.”

Scrap metal or cause célèbre? The Grand Forks citizenry is choosing sides over the Smiley issue with the nostaligic facing off against the practical…..on Facebook!?

A former Grand Forks resident, created the Facebook group “Save Mr. Smiley from Demolition” in 2006 when the City Council started talking seriously about scrapping the smiler for good.

And it was a quick social networking success. Noted in this article from the Grand Forks Herald,

Within the first two weeks, about 400 members had already signed on. After City Council members indicated on Monday that they favored tearing down Smiley, the group now has more than 1,000 members.

Sounds like a good idea, but… since the issue is really about money, it is a shame that the effort did not include an opportunity to donate. That way, the tower’s fanbase could put money where their smiling mouths are.

Who’s Smiling Now?

Grand Fork-ers (North Dakota) are ambivalent about the future of their two-sided smiling/winking water tower, despite the fact that it hasn’t held water in years. Now, city leaders are struggling with the rising cost of indecision–about 108% higher in just two years. (Makes that winking seem more like mocking!) Now this is the sort of infrastructure stimulus project that could put a smile on the face of We-The-People. From the Jan. 26, 2009 Grand Forks Herald,

New estimates show it would cost about $396,000 to save the old Grand Forks water tower with a painted smiley face and winking eye.

That would extend its life about 20 years. Demolishing it would cost an estimated $99,000.

The tower’s paint is falling off in large chunks and it has held no water for nearly a decade. It was built nearly 80 years ago.

But for some, it’s a valued symbol. Councilman Doug Christensen has said it’s “like talking about somebody’s cousin.”

Demolition has been discussed for years. In 2006, the cost of demolition was estimated to be $50,000 and the cost of renovation $190,000.

The photo is from this post on the Seven Wonders of Grand Forks at The The Blue Skunk Blog (which also includes the fantastic “Sewage Lift Stations named after newspaper columnists.”

Flip this Tower

Another opportunity to quench your thirst for one-of-a-kind digs. For £100,000 (that’s about US$135,000) plus renovation expenses, you could turn this abandoned concrete tower into a 4-story monument to to your exceptional design instinct. From the Jan. 16, 2009, Northampton (UK) Chronicle & Echo,

The massive concrete tower in Great Doddington comes with planning permission for a four-storey home on a plot measuring almost a quarter of an acre.

Andrew Kilburn, director of residential sales at estate agents King West in Northampton, said the unusual property in Cut Throat Lane could inspire a renovation like those on Channel 4’s Grand Designs show.

He said: “Anything that is unusual, we have to pitch a figure that will generate interest.

“Ultimately, what we are selling here isn’t a terrible-looking building, we’re selling the concept of what it could be. There aren’t too many of them around and I do recall on Grand Designs there was a water tower that was converted and featured.

The plans for the circular structure include two bedrooms on the ground and first floor, kitchen on the third floor and a roof extension for the lounge.

Cut Throat Lane?! I think that adds $20K in value by itself! The photo here is a capture from a wildly entertaining video on the same topic at bbc.com. Watch the BBC Video.

No quaint paint for this water tower

What is art? During my art student days in the swingin seventies, the idea that art is dynamically defined by perception was the new standard. Now it’s just the standard.

Awesome, because it opened the door to art today as expessed by a sweater for a water tower.  As reported last month in the New York Daily News story, Queens Artist Covers SoHo Water Tower with Yarn Sweater,

Some artists use paint, others clay. For Robyn Love, it’s all about the yarn. Lots of it.

The crochet fanatic unveiled her latest large scale art piece made of her favorite material Saturday atop a 15-story SoHo building. The Queens mother of two, using 60 balls of yellow and black yarn transformed a drab wooden water tower into a huge yellow pencil – point included.

“I wanted to do something that was iconic of New York,” Love said.

Love was hired by the D&AD organization, which gives out pencil-shaped awards, to create a supersized version. “The pencil is the highest award for design and art students,” said Maria Lishman, the organization’s spokeswoman.

Love was given three weeks to crochet what is essentially a massive yellow sweater to envelope the brown water tower atop 395 Broadway.

“I could never do this all by myself in three weeks,” Love said, so she called in backup – six crochet masters with decades of experience.

Team Love worked 10 hours a day and they pulled it off.

Love said she wants to take a break before crocheting anything else. “I’m going to see where the wind takes me before I do another huge project,” she said.

While it’s not my perceived idea of “art,” I would guess that the world is at least a more fanciful, unexpected place because of it. Hmmmm. Maybe it is art, after all.

Water beautiful sight, happy tonight

More festive water towers pimped up for the Christmas season.


Seen in Oxford, Mississippi by gasolinehorses on Flickr.


A futuristic look in Malmo, Sweden, from Flickr and photographed by by Kristian M, who notes “The light is red during the christmas time and blue the rest of the year. The tower was finished in 1973. It is 62 meter high and contains about 10200 cubic meters of water. And the room on the top serves now as an educational center. Before there was a restaurant.”


This one from Alexandria, Louisiana looks more jellyfish than Christmas icon. By jlkwak on Flickr.


Now that I’m struck with Christmas water tower envy, perhaps this could be an acceptable substitute for the bare water towers in my locale, the “BELIEVE” water tower with Blinking Star. The 112″ high, 48″ wide decoration is available for $350 from store.theholidaylightstore.com.  Sign me up.

Tower of Power #2

Atlanta, Illinois: happy to have avoided the drought. This photo by Neato Coolville on the Flickr pool “Save Ferris–Fun Water Towers.”