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Ryan Johnson, Published May 20 2009

Bids are in for tearing down 'Smiley' water tower in Grand Forks

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - After completing some preparation work and setting up the proper containment for lead paint, construction crews could completely take down Grand Forks’ Smiley water tower within one day.

That’s what Hazel Sletten, water treatment superintendent, told the City Council safety committee Tuesday after the city received five bids for demolishing the tower, popular with many for its wink and smile.

She said the work would happen sometime between September and the end of February 2010, when the peregrine falcons now nesting on the tower will have migrated south.

Classic Protective Coatings had the lowest bid for removing Smiley at $50,500. Lead Con’s bid was $62,642. The other three bids ranged from $93,633 to $104,000.

Staff estimated earlier this year that demolishing Smiley would cost $99,000, but extending its life another 15 to 20 years would cost $396,000. On Feb. 17, council members unanimously voted to demolish the 77-year-old tower near the busy intersection of DeMers Avenue and Washington Street.

Adding smiley faces to the Purpur tower, an alternate portion of the project, ranged from $13,000 to $40,000. That paint job could be scrapped if council members decide to cut if from the project and save the money.

But the most expensive part of the project is reconditioning the North End water tower by repainting and repairing the structure. Staff had estimated the cost at $514,000.

LeadCon had the lowest bid at $403,000, about $50,000 less than the next-lowest bidder. The company also had the lowest total bid for all three projects at $478,642.

Sletten said her department will recommend awarding the project to LeadCon, and added that the company previously did work in Grand Forks on the water tower near Menards.

Some community members are still trying to save Smiley.

Sletten said that Jerry Waletzko, a local real estate agent, plans to attend next Tuesday’s council meeting to suggest establishing a fundraising Web site and preserving the tower.

But Curt Kreun, chair of the committee, said he was concerned about what Waletzko and fellow Smiley supporters would expect if they were unable to raise the money for a full repair of the aging structure. Another concern, he said, is the tower will be in the way when the Washington Street underpass is eventually widened.

“If they do rehab it at some point in time, and that widening does occur, now we’ve just created another problem for ourselves 10 years from now,” Kreun said.

The Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald and The Forum are both owned by Forum Communications Co.