By Bob Uphues
Since 1981, four dolphins have looked down on Brookfield from a height of 95 feet. But village trustees next year will have to decide whether those iconic blue symbols of the village, which adorn the water tower at Maple and Brookfield avenues will continue to do so in the future.
The water tower is in line for a complete exterior and interior overhaul — including a new paint job. And it's not going to be cheap.
In November 2011, the village got an estimate to make repairs and repaint the tower from Yorkville-based Dixon Engineering.
Dixon did a full exterior and interior inspection of the tower, whose spheroid tank holds 1 million gallons of water. The company recommended at that time that the work be completed within two years.
The company noted that some areas of the tower's exterior paint had rusted through, and that the condition of the tower coating was "fair." Dixon also recommended that the village schedule regular cleaning and inspections of the tank at least every five years in the aftermath of the proposed work.
Dixon estimated the cost of the work at $208,500.
The most expensive line item is the estimate for an "exterior overcoat" of paint, at $130,000. It did not include a cost for repainting the dolphins and the word "Brookfield," which can be seen on the east and west sides of the tower.
With that estimate a year old, officials expect the cost to repair the tower may have gone up a bit. As a result, they have inserted a $300,000 line item into the village's 2013 budget to account for the project, which they hope will be completed next summer.
The project will be paid for through the village's water enterprise fund, which has a reserve of about $3 million at this time, according to Finance Director Doug Cooper.
At the village board meeting on Nov. 26, trustees briefly discussed the water tower project. Village Manager Riccardo Ginex said the decision on whether to paint the dolphins on the tower once again was up to the board of trustees, since the expenditure will likely be significant.
Ginex, in a separate interview, said staff would provide trustees with options for painting the exterior of the tower. While the tower has always been painted white, it could be painted another color, one that doesn't show so much grime — the tower being right next to the railroad tracks. The underside of the tower's tank is especially dingy and dirty.
"Obviously it's a tie-in with the zoo," said Village President Michael Garvey on Friday about the dolphin design on the tower. "I guess when the quotes come back we'll see where the numbers are at.
"It's highly visible, so we want to make sure it looks nice."
The last time the water tower received an overhaul was back in 1996. James Mann, who was Brookfield's village manager at the time, said the job entailed the tower being surrounded by a "shroud" as it was power stripped. The job cost the village between $150,000 and $200,000 at that time, he said.
And, of course, there was the issue of the dolphins.
"The big issue came along: Do we put the dolphins back up there?" said Mann, who remembered that the decoration cost an additional $20,000.
"In the end, the village board said it's a symbol of Brookfield, we'll find the funds for this and pay for it."
The present tower dates to 1981, when it replaced an old-fashioned gray tank that stood nearby on the same site. Constructed by the Chicago Bridge and Iron Company, the tower is the tallest structure in Brookfield.
Initially, plans called for the tower to resemble a giant giraffe neck and head, with a pair of giant giraffe eyes surveying the landscape. That proved too costly, thankfully, and the village board scrapped the idea.
According to Mann, the dolphin design is actually etched onto the tank so painters won't have to freehand the images if the village board decides to include them.