New water tower soars southeast of Lovell

Lovell got its second skyscraper last week – a 170-foot solid steel water tower erected Friday section by section by a crew from Phoenix Fabricators and Erectors of Indiana and Kentucky that has roughly matched the Western Sugar factory sugar bins as the tallest structure in the community.

When the 400,000-gallon tank is filled, it will provide greatly improved water pressure and fire flow for residents on the bench in the south portion of Lovell.

Almost as impressive as the tower was the crane that erected it, a 200-foot crane with a 650-ton capacity from JMS Crane Service of Billings that arrived on multiple trucks and was assembled Thursday at the tower site on the west edge of the Lovell Rodeo Grounds.

DOWL Engineering project engineer and inspector Bob Schoenbaum of Sheridan said once the project was awarded Phoenix Fabricators and Erectors started work fabricating the tank during the winter months. Then in May, a crew excavated approximately 16 feet below the land surface and poured the concrete foundation the water tower would later be bolted to. Schoenbaum said a high early strength chemical was used so the concrete would set up and cure quicker.

A piece of the new water tower east of Lovell hovers above its perch on Friday as it is lowered from a crane.
Patti Carpenter photo

Later, in late June or early July, the lower cone base section was bolted to the concrete foundation and resembled a large, metal tipi at the site east of Lovell.

“A lot of work had to be done inside of it (the base) before they could start going up with it,” Schoenbaum said.

Last week Phoenix brought in a smaller crane of their own to build the larger JMS crane, which arrived on multiple trucks mid-week. The “crane on crane” work was done on Thursday in time for the tower erection to begin bright and early Friday morning.

The first section to go up Friday was the 85-foot stem, which was welded to the cone base section. Next came the transitional piece the tank would rest on, followed by the lower half of the water tank bowl, then the upper half.

The crew fit each piece into place and welded each new section to the last. The entire process took only about nine hours to complete. In the days that followed, the pounding noise could be heard as the Phoenix crew “tweaked” the sections so everything would fit perfectly, Schoenbaum said, adding, “They used a lot of wedges to get a nice, smooth joint.

“Those guys are animals,” Schoenbaum said. “There’s just nothing simple about that process. It’s hot and everything is heavy. They are in great shape, swinging six-pound hammers, and up to 20-pounders, all day.”

This week the Phoenix crew has been grinding down the welds and the rough spots, Schoenbaum said, and later a painting crew will arrive to sandblast the tower inside and out wherever there’s a welded seam or where any rust has formed. The crew will coat the tank and tower inside and out with a high quality paint that meets the standards for potable water, Schoenbaum said.

“It’s high end, pretty good stuff,” he said of the paint.

The tower will be painted white, and the sandblasting and painting will be done over about 15 days in mid-August, Schoenbaum said.

The Lovell Town Council is still considering where on the tank to have a logo with the word Lovell and a red rose with a green stem painted, pondering whether to face the logo southeast so drivers on the Greybull highway can see it or northwest so townspeople can enjoy it.

Meanwhile, all of the transmission lines on Shoshone Avenue, Lane 12 and Nevada east to the tower have been installed, hooked up, pressure tested and disinfected, and the new pump station at the top of the Shoshone Avenue hill is in the process of being built, the engineer said.

Also under way is the French drain being constructed on Nevada Avenue on the east edge of the North Big Horn Hospital and Clinic parking lot – featuring a far greater capacity than the current drain to accept water from the parking lot during a rainstorm.

The target for full operation of the water tank and system is the end of September, Schoenbaum said, noting, “We hope to be running in late September or early October. He added that final street paving should also be complete in mid to late September.

Schoenbaum said residents on the hill will enjoy the enhanced water pressure, especially during power outages.

“The nice thing about an elevated tank is that your pressure is consistent,” he said. “People will notice that the pressure is more steady, with less fluctuation. 400,000 gallons is a good capacity. That’s quite a lot of water for a town this size.”

At just over 170 feet tall, the tower is close to the height of the Western Sugar bins, which are roughly 165 feet tall but reach 200 feet counting the “head house” on the top, according to company officials.

By David Peck