Proposed Lamar Park water tower draws ire

By HASKEL BURNS,

Although officials from Lamar Park Water & Sewer Association are moving forward to construct a new water tower on Ford Avenue in Hattiesburg, the process won’t be met with unanimous cheer from residents.

During Monday’s meeting of the Lamar County Board of Supervisors, board members voted to approve conditional use for a 165-foot water tower at 100 Ford Avenue, which is located between Interstate 59 and Lamar Avenue. Robert Smith, who lives across the street from the proposed build site, took the opportunity during the meeting to speak out against the new tower, which he said would be only 100 meters away from the front door of his house.

“My concern is the safety of my family, and second, my medical condition – (Post-traumatic stress disorder),” Smith told the board. “I know I’m going to have problems with that particular water tower being over my head as I try to rest at night.”

Lamar Park officials said the water tower would serve as a redundancy measure to their current system, which employs a 500,000-gallon tank in the area, to avoid any potential service interruptions.

Smith said he has done extensive research on the Internet about the safety of water towers, and has seen several occasions where towers have fallen, flooded or otherwise malfunctioned.

“That area’s already having some issues with water in the soil out there,” he said. “So with the rain, I’m thinking it can get saturated with the wind and the storms.

“(In one instance I saw), they had a crane and they had built the legs for this water tower. They took the crane and they was picking up the head of the water tower, and the crane accidentally tilted, and the crane and the head of the water tower went forward. Now, if something like that was to happen in this case, guess where it’s going to go? Directly onto my home.”

County engineer Don Walker said current water towers are built to withstand winds of up to 150 miles per hour, and he was not aware of any recent weather activity disrupting towers, even during Hurricane Katrina.

District 1 Supervisor Steve Lampton – whose district includes Ford Avenue – said even though he honestly would have concerns if a water tower was constructed close to his home, he would still have to vote to approve the Ford Avenue tower for the better of the community.

“I respect the way you presented this,” he told Smith. “But sitting in this chair, I feel like I’ve got to do what’s most advantageous for the whole community.

“And water to residents and the community, and fire protection to the residents and the community, is extremely important when you look at the whole picture.”

The water tower is expected to take a little less than a month to complete once construction begins.

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