The ugly, behemoth North Penn Water Authority water tower that looms over the borough off West Third Street/ North Richardson Avenue is getting a makeover after 60 years.
Lansdale Borough Manager Timi Kirchner announced at Monday's joint Communication Commission and Economic Development Committee meeting that NPWA will be repainting the inside and outside of the water tower next year, and now is the time to talk about Lansdale's brand on the tower.
"We have been working with North Penn Water Authority on something that we, as a town, have been looking forward to for a long, long time," Kirchner said. "We have one big, ugly, large tower. From the moment I arrived, they said, 'I'm sorry. We do have a timeline. We promise.' I love when people say 'I promise' and come back in the timeline they talked about."
The Lansdale water tank was constructed in the mid-1950s and has had more than 60 years of use, according to NPWA Executive Director Tony Bellitto.
NPWA is working with Christine Gunsaullus, director of technical services at civil engineering firm Mumford-Bjorkman Associates, in planning the design of the water tower before it goes out to public bid for painting.
"The good news for us is we did everything right in working on the brand for Lansdale," Kirchner said.
The joint committees discussed Monday four possibilities for the look of the water tower. All four include the borough's stylized "L" logo and the "Life in Motion" slogan. In the end, the committees preferred two of the choices: a white tower with dark blue lettering and a light blue tower with dark blue lettering.
A couple committeemembers suggested light gray could be considered as a color for the tower too.
The Lansdale logo and slogan would be side to side versus top to bottom, due to the shape of the water tower.
Bellitto said nobody is happy to start painting the tower more than the NPWA.
The delay: Completion of the 3-million-gallon water tank under construction, at present, off Township Line Road in Franconia Township, near Cowpath Road.
Bellitto said the 2-million-gallon Lansdale water tower is "the heart of the system."
"That tank never goes out of service," he said. "To have efficient quantities and pressures to our entire service area, we need to keep it running."
The tank cannot be painted while filled with water, he said.
Enter the new Franconia Township NPWA water tower, set to be completed in December 2014.
"Because that timeline for the completion of the new construction is such that it will be done by the end of the year, we'll be able to finally take the Lansdale water tank out of service, drain it down completely, and have that 3-million-gallon supply available to us in Franconia," Bellitto said.
NPWA plans to start the painting in April 2015 and complete over a four-month period. With the painting comes a full inspection of the interior and exterior and any necessary repairs, he said, adding that there is no structural damage to the tower.
"The planning starts now," he said. "By this fall, we will put out the contract, and all the details of the design, to public bid. By spring of next year, we'll be ready to go."
There will be no noticeable change in water pressure to NPWA customers when the Lansdale tank is taken offline.
"That tank is emptied and filled every day, every 24 hours. It's constantly being utilized," said Bellitto.
NPWA Director of Operations and Engineering Dan Preston said a recent installation of a 16-inch pipe across the Lansdale train station parking lot was in preparation for this project.
"Everything is interconnected to make sure the new 3-million-gallon tank is in service. There will be no impact at all to the service we provide to customers," he said.
A massive temporary "shower curtain" will be erected around the periphery of the water tank to capture paint dust and chips.
"No dust or chips will leave the site," Bellitto said. "It will be covered and nobody will see what's happening behind the curtain, so to speak, until we unveil it."
Bellitto said that, due to water towers being a highly visible part of communities, many communities across the country have used the towers as source of identity.
"You want it to be a showcase," he said. "Many water authorities will work with local communities to get their input on what they would like to see painted on the tank."
Hilltown Township worked with NPWA on branding an identity on twin water tanks off Route 309 North.
"It has our logo and it's got nice visible wording: Welcome to Hilltown Township," said Bellitto. "You can do anything you want with the tank. There are a number of different ways to establish community and a message to express your pride in your community."
Kirchner said the NPWA logo will go on one side of the tower, and Lansdale's brand will appear on the opposite side.
"We could have played with a lot of different scenarios—a bright yellow tower. We decided to go more straightforward. The North Penn Water Authority and Lansdale colors are so close, it seemed to make sense to do that," she said.
Preston said NPWA's logo would be aquamarine blue, which would work nicely with light blue, white or gray.
Preston invited the committeemembers to tour NPWA's eight water towers in Montgomery and Bucks counties to see examples of similar color schemes, especially in Hilltown Township and Sellersville Borough.
The committees will be coming up with ideas to get the public's input on the color and brand schemes for the water tower. A final decision on the new look is due in Fall 2014.
Kirchner suggested a survey on SurveyMonkey.com to gather input. Economic Development Committee Vice Chairman Richard Strahm suggested a water balloon toss at First Friday, where citizens choose based on throwing the balloon into a respective bucket.
Gunsaullus said none of the colors will chalk or fade over time.
"In the 1980s and 1990s, there was paint that would chalk. Nowadays, we use a urethane glossy finish. Whether you are using white or light blue, both will stay for a long time," she said.
Gunsaullus warned that atmospheric dirt may streak a white tank, and it would be less noticeable if the tank were light gray in color.
Preston said the painting system is considered "the best possible system to use in this scenario."
"We'll get a good 30 years out of it," he said. "We're confident you'll be very pleased with the results."
Bellitto said it is often hard to visualize what the color schemes would look like on a larger scale.
"It's not an easy thing to pick the right color," he said.
Councilwoman Mary Fuller said she loved the idea of having the Lansdale "L" on the water tower.
"This is perfect. I couldn't be happier and most of us would agree what an opportunity this is for us," Fuller said. "The brand seems to be catching on ... what a great way to solidify our brand."
Strahm suggested lighting the brand on the water tower.
"We do love our brand," he said. "Why not have it lit at night?"
"Like a neon sign?" joked Economic Development Committee member Denise Pitts, of Abington Health-Lansdale Hospital.
Bellitto had no objection to that.
"As long as it doesn't bother neighbors," said Mayor Andy Szekely.
"It should be concentrated on the brand itself," said Councilman Steve Malagari.
Kirchner said lighting is something that the borough would "look into and pay for."
"We'll see what the possibilities are," she said.
Gunsaullus said lights could be placed on the balcony around the tower, below the logo.
"It would be easy to get light there," Gunsaullus said.
One committeemember suggested using solar power, thus operating the lights on a charged photoelectric cell.
Bellitto said the average daily consumption of water by the NPWA's 30,000 customers is 9 million to 10 million gallons. It peaks at 13 million gallons a day during hot, summer days.
There are two main water sources for North Penn Water Authority and North Wales Water Authority's customers: Lake Galena at Peace Valley Park in Bucks County and groundwater. Bellitto said Lake Galena levels are controlled by rainwater, runoff and piped-in water from the Delaware River.