MOUNT ZION — Rising 150 feet into the sky on the village's southeast side, Mount Zion's new water tower represents a long-anticipated infrastructure upgrade for the growing community.
Officials hope the $2.3 million structure will be operational as early as next week after a little over a year of construction. The exterior of the million-gallon tank has been completed, with additional work being done to fine-tune the electronic systems and collect test samples of the water inside the tank for the Environmental Protection Agency, said Mike Buzicky, a civil engineer with MSA Professional Services, the Champaign-based company working on construction. New landscaping is also planned for the site at 430 S. Illinois 121.
“This is another monument, I guess you would say, in the history of Mount Zion,” Mayor Mark Wells said.
The project represents the culmination of nearly a decade of discussions and planning to ensure the village's water system, which is fed by Lake Decatur, could serve the needs of its population. The new water tower replaces one that held 100,000 gallons and was built in the 1950s, when fewer than 500 people lived in the village. As of last year, the population had grown to 5,820, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
After so much buildup, Wells said it felt good to stand in the open space inside the tower’s pedestal, or what the water storage tank itself sits on, and see it in person.
A gray column provides the base for the tower, which is topped by a tank bearing the village's red-and-gray logo. Inside, the lower level of the cavernous base provides enough storage space for the village to keep anything from equipment to seasonal decorations.
Wednesday evening offered a chance for residents to get their first look inside the water tower and learn more about how much of an improvement it is over the existing structure. Among those who arrived with interest was Steve Jacoby, 63, who has lived in the village since 1977.
Jacoby said he first took notice of the project because of its proximity to his parents’ residence, and soon he began taking pictures that chronicled the construction of the project, from when it was merely a big hole in the ground to when they began putting the water storage tank on the top.
Jacoby said he plans to donate his pictures to the village so future generations can see all the steps that went into its construction.
“I’m very impressed with this,” he said. “I think they did a good job building it in a safe manner, and I think it’s a great asset to the village. I’m glad to see the village get it and I think it’ll strengthen the growth of (the village).”
The $2.3 million cost of the water tower was part of a total $2.9 million project related to improving the water flow in the village, with the rest of the money going toward booster station improvements. Funding came through a loan from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, to be repaid over a 20-year period at a current interest rate of 1.86 percent.
The new tower has a capacity of 1 million gallons.
When staff first started preparation work at the site in October 2017, officials hoped weather conditions would allow the tower to be operational by this fall. Luckily for the village, last year’s mild fall temperatures allowed crews to pour the concrete base for the tower’s pedestal, and construction was able to continue into winter.
“Everything just kind of fell into place,” Wells said.
The completion of the new water tower will lead to the old one being taken “offline” and eventually demolished. Wells said it is likely the village board will accept bids for demolition next spring.
NOTE: An earlier version of this story omitted the capacity of the water tower. This story was updated.