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Farmingdale to borrow $3.2M to replace water tower, reduce maintenance costs

Replacing the nearly 60-year-old 500,000-gallon tank is expected to save millions of dollars in maintenance costs over time. The work is to be completed by next fall without disrupting service.

The old water tower in Farmingdale, seen here

The old water tower in Farmingdale, seen here on Sunday. Photo Credit: Bryan Bennett

Farmingdale’s water tower is to be replaced after nearly six decades with a new tank that village officials say will save money over time.

The old steel water tower, built in the 1960s on Eastern Parkway, is due for maintenance that would cost about $2.5 million. Constructing a new tower, which is expected to be cheaper to maintain, would cost $2.7 million to $3 million, Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Ekstrand said.

Ekstrand said the new tower, to be built with a glass-fused-to-steel tank instead of painted steel, would require less than $20,000 in maintenance every 20 years compared to more than $2 million in maintenance costs for the existing tower.

“It's a much better deal for the village,” Ekstrand said. “It will save the future, our residents and the future board of trustees, a ton of money over time.”

The West Hempstead water district recently faced a similar choice: refurbish its 78-year-old water tower at a cost of $3.5 million to $4 million or build a new one and pay less for maintenance over time. The district opted for a new tower, budgeted at $6.9 million, that is now under construction.

Christopher Sellers, a professor of environmental history at Stony Brook University, said many Long Island municipalities that built up their water infrastructure in the post-World War II period face similar challenges. 

"That infrastructure now is over half a century old, most of it," Sellers said.

Municipalities have faced problems with funding for such projects as federal money dwindled as they faced pressure to keep taxes down, he said.

"The scale of deterioration has become such that the amount it costs to put in new technology versus to repair the old technology is not that different," Sellers said. 

The Farmingdale Village Board last month approved borrowing up to $3.2 million for the water storage effort by issuing bonds. Village officials said they expect to solicit bids for the project in November, put shovels in the ground in April and finish in the fall of 2019.

Farmingdale's new tower will be built next to the existing tower. Like the old one, the new tower will be topped with a 500,000-gallon tank but it will be resting on a cement pedestal that has a staircase inside instead of steel columns with a ladder.

Ekstrand said switching the water system hookups from the old tower to the newly finished one will take a few hours, but residents won’t notice because the town’s underground tank will supply water during the switch. The old tower will then be dismantled and its steel sold as scrap, Ektrand said.

In the fiscal year that ended May 31, 2017, the village invested $668,000 in water infrastructure improvements, according to Farmingdale’s audited financial statements.  After the new tower is built, the village plans to replace its 400,000-gallon underground tank with a 500,000-water tank, Ekstrand said.

Farmingdale Village Water System

Estimated users: 9,500

Capacity of old and new water tower: 500,000 gallons

Cost of new tower: $2.7 million to $3 million

Source: Farmingdale Village Officials

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