Water tower No. 3 sits on Sunrise Highway, next to the village’s Department of Public Works shed and the Mill River Complex Park. The 200-foot-tall, white and baby blue steel monolith is hard to miss. It is one of four towers in Rockville Centre that, altogether, hold up to nearly 4 million gallons of water.
Over the years, however, maintaining the structures has proved a challenge. Now, as rust appears on No. 3’s façade, village officials say they plan to rehabilitate the tank by the fall of 2018 — a project that could cost $2.5 million to $3 million, and would include engineering design work and the recoating of both the interior and exterior of the tower.
According to the village Water Department, tank coatings can last 20 to 30 years if done correctly. The last time tank No. 3 was rehabilitated was in 2005, when the interior surface was sandblasted and given a fresh coat of paint specially designed for surfaces where drinking water is stored. The exterior was given an additional overcoat, but that paint appears to be wearing.
Since a complete repainting of the exterior will require removal of the original coat, a containment structure would have to be built around the tower to protect the surrounding area from dust and debris.
The last tower to be rehabilitated was tank No. 1, by South Side High School. That project was completed in 2015. The Water Department has a number of other infrastructure projects in the works, including the ongoing replacement of water mains and the construction of an iron-removal plant, which is scheduled to begin in September and is projected to cost $3.5 million. Typically, these capital projects have been paid for with bonds and grants.
Last June, water rates increased 14.7 percent, and they are expected to increase by another 7.7 percent this June. According to previous Herald reporting, former village Comptroller Michael Schussheim said the average Rockville Centre homeowner uses roughly 130,000 gallons of water a year, which means an average annual water bill of $504.
Schussheim attributed the rate hikes to increasing debt-service payments on bonds. The village will make $1.99 million in payments on bonds issued for water infrastructure projects this fiscal year.
Despite the hikes, the cost of water in Rockville Centre remains lower than in surrounding areas. In Freeport, 130,000 gallons of water for residential use costs $521.50. The average annual bill for American Water, which supplies many of the communities surrounding Rockville Centre, is $675.94.
Village officials said they have not finalized how the tower rehabilitation will be paid for, since the project is still a year and a half away. Alternatives to a complete repainting of the tank are being considered, including a partial coating, as was done in 2005. Although a complete reconstruction of the tank is also an option, officials said, the potential cost of demolition, engineering and reconstruction is prohibitive, and may be unnecessary.
“My administration over the last six years has taken a proactive and aggressive approach to rebuilding the infrastructure of our Village,” Mayor Francis X. Murray said in a statement. “We have successfully applied for and received numerous grants to help in this process. I want to thank our current Village Board for their support and innovative thinking as we continue down this successful path of revitalizing our village for our residents and future generations to come.”