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story.lead_photo.caption Helen Wilbers/FULTON SUN The City of Fulton plans to repaint these two water storage tanks, along with the 1.7 million-gallon tank located near Auto World Museum, sometime in the next couple of years.

Painting a million-gallon water tank is no small undertaking.

And painting three — that's an even bigger, and pricier, undertaking. The City of Fulton isn't planning to repaint its three dingiest water towers until next year at the earliest, but due to the project's big price tag, City of Fulton Utilities Superintendent presented information about it to Fulton City Council members during the July 14 meeting.

"I wanted to give you an idea of the cost of the project, so it doesn't seem like it's coming out of nowhere on the capital budget," Dunlap said.

Recent inspections by Maguire Iron, a company specializing in water tower construction and maintenance, revealed issues at the elevated water tower near Fulton Ford, the million-gallon ground storage tank next to the tower and the 1.7 million ground storage tank near Auto World Museum. The issues range from some light rust at the Auto World tank to deteriorating riveting at the million-gallon ground tank to a rusting interior ladder at the elevated tower.

The million-gallon ground storage tank is "in worse shape than the pictures are showing," Dunlap added.

On average, water tanks need to be repainted every 10-15 years, according to Dunlap. The paint protects the tanks' metal structure from weather on the outside and water on the inside. Other maintenance, such as caulking, can take place at the same time as repainting.

Depending on which bids the city accepts, spiffing up the three tanks could cost between a million and $1.3 million dollars; that doesn't include the cost to repaint logos or slogans on the outside of the tanks.

"The assumption is we wouldn't do all three in one year," Dunlap said. "We could do one in the spring and one in fall, so we could have all tanks available during summer. Or we could do one a year."

He suggested starting with the Auto World tank, which is in the best shape of the three; a little preventative maintenance now could save Fulton from facing bigger costs on down the line. None of the three are in bad enough shape to warrant replacement, he said. Building a new tank costs $2-3 per gallon on average — a much costlier prospect than the current proposed project.

Despite fears about how the ongoing pandemic could affect the city's budget, Fulton actually has enough funding to fix up all three tanks now. The money would be drawn capital improvement sales tax account.

"Legally, that money can only be used for this type of project," said Kathy Holschlag, the city's chief financial officer.

Money from that account also helped pay for improvements at Fulton's Route O lift station — a project that came in well under the initial estimate (

Two companies bid on the projects: Maguire Iron, which had higher bids, and Pittsburgh Tower and Tank Group, which only bid on the first two tanks.

"Either of those vendors are well-known and recognized," said Director of Administration Bill Johnson.

Both companies use dry-fall paint, which is less likely to spatter nearby cars and buildings and doesn't require the whole tank to be swathed in plastic during the painting process.

Fulton's Utility Board will continue to discuss the project; it'll eventually appear on the city's 2021 Capital Budget for the council's approval.

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