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Budget triumphs over beauty in Mueller water tower design

Friday, February 15, 2008 by Austin Monitor

In the long-running debate over the design for a new water tower in the Robert Mueller neighborhood, finances triumphed over aesthetics on Thursday as the City Council approved the less-expensive option for the project.


“All of us want to have as good a design as possible on all of these pieces of infrastructure that we build, whether it’s offices or water towers. I commend staff for taking as long and hard a look as you have to help us come up with this enhanced design, and hopefully we can continue to push that envelope and challenge ourselves internally on how we can deliver the best design possible,” Mayor Will Wynn said. “Aesthetics matter and civic pride matters. Hopefully this can be the first step in expanding that concept within our water utility.”


The tank itself will cost approximately $7.9 million, and the Council authorized another $350,000 for continued engineering services. With seven reclaimed water tower projects on the horizon, officials with the Austin Water Utility told Council Members there was a concern about setting a new precedent with the Mueller tower. Since the “lattice” design preferred by the neighborhood cost approximately $8 million more than the design recommended by the utility, officials said, that could add up to $56 million to the utility, as more towers are built over the next 30 years.


That potential cost increase was one of the things that convinced the Council to go with the less-expensive design. “As we see a decrease in the growth of sales tax revenue and the national trend, I think we need to be prudent with our dollars and recognize that we have other towers to build throughout the city,” said Council Member Sheryl Cole.


Some of the existing development in the Mueller neighborhood is already on the city’s reclaimed water, or “purple pipe” system. However, the continued growth of that system depends on construction of new water towers like the one at Mueller. “The tower itself is a critical centerpiece project for our extension of reclaimed water in that area,” said Austin Water Utility Director Greg Meszaros.

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