$2.4 million water tower replacement contract on upcoming City Commission agenda

A replacement for the Gore Hill water tower has in the works for years and on Tuesday, City Commissioners will consider awarding a contract for $2.4 million to Landmark Structures I, L.P. for the work.

City staff are recommending that commissioners approve the base bid portion of the contract, but not award an additive alternative portion of the bid at this time for adding the city logo and lettering on the water tower. Public works staff are recommending that the city wait until after the tower is constructed to add lettering if it’s deemed necessary.

The current tower is near the Great Falls International Airport, but the city has purchased land on the other side of the interstate interchange near the Crystal Inn for the new tower. The relocation was recommended in a 2006 water master plan from TD&H and Black and Veatch Corporation to allow for a taller water tower and improving water pressure in the Gore Hill portion of the water distribution system. The height of the new water tower has been designed to the maximum height allowed by the Federal Aviation Administration and the overflow pipe will be 27 feet higher than the current elevation.

A 2013 assessment by Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services evaluated the Gore Hill Water Tower and documented excessive corrosion and pitting to the point that proper reconditioning might not be feasible. In the last two years, about 22 holes have been plugged by city staff in the existing tower. If and when a hole develops that cannot be plugged, the tower has to be taken off line and that portion of the water distribution system has to be pressurized by the Gore Hill Pump Station. That would cause power bills that are two to three times higher than normal and a loss of capacity in the system, according to Public Works.

Great Falls utility rates rank among lowest in Montana, region in survey

Construction on the new tower is expected to start this fall and be completed by summer 2019. The new composite elevated tank will consist of a 30-foot diameter concrete pedestal topped with a 500,000 gallon welded steel bowl, about sixty feet in diameter. The project also includes connecting the new tower to the recently installed water main, constructing a 125,000 gallon storm drainage detention pond and demolishing the existing tower.

Four bids were received for the project, ranging from $2.4 million to $3 million and Landmark Structures was the lowest bidder. Landmark Structures had constructed about 70 percent of all composite elevated tanks currently in service in North America, according to the company’s website.

According to Public Works, the construction won’t likely require shutting off water to surrounding businesses and shouldn’t interfere with business access and the contractor will be required to maintain residential access to properties east of the site.

The project is being funded through the Water Capital Improvement fund.

Commissioners could choose to approve the additive logo and lettering to the contract on Tuesday, but could also choose not to award the contract, though city staff estimates that rebidding the project would cost at least another $7,000 to $10,000. Or commissioners could choose to scrap the project entirely, but staff does not recommend that option since at some point the tower will not be able to be repaired and be taken off line.

Commissioners authorized the purchase of property for the new tower in October 2016 and in February, the FAA issued a Determination of No Hazard to Air Navigation for the tower with a maximum height of 3,830 feet above mean sea level at the proposed location.

In April, City Commissioners approved annexation and PLI-Public Lands and Institutional zoning for the new property for the tower. In June, commissioners approved a contract to extend a water main to the proposed water tower site. The Design Review Board considered the project in mid-August and recommended approval of the site layout and design. The DRB also recommended that the city spend the additional money on lettering for the water tower, but staff is advising to push that decision until the construction is complete.