After several years of planning and a year of construction, Newton’s new cloud-decorated landmark with a 5,000-gallon tank on East 12th Street is on line and delivering water to the town’s residents.

Newton Director of Public Works Suzanne Loomis said the old water tower, which was built in 1905, had run its course and was starting to leak.

She said the $1.5 million project to replace the old tower was completely paid for by water revenues. Newton residents’ water bills help pay for the project. No money is taken out of general taxes in the general fund.

“What happens is, is that we build the project, then we bond it,” Loomis said. “So the debt service is paid through the water.”

She said the tower has been full of water and functioning since shortly after the new year.

The project was bid out to Phoenix Fabricators and Erectors, a company with primary facilities in Indiana and Kentucky.

“We’re nearing completion,” Loomis said. “It takes quite a while. When you bid a project out like that, you have to give a large window of time because there’s only a certain number of tower contractors.”

Companies like Phoenix construct towers around the country. Loomis said the contractor is expected to have the Newton project completed in February.

The contractor still is working on electrical issues and paving. They will conclude with clean-up and demolition of the old tower.

Loomis said Phoenix is likely to recycle scrap metal from the old tower after it has been torn down.

An on-sight consultant is responsible to oversee the construction of the new tower. Any problems — minor or major — with the project are to be fixed by Phoenix, including covering the cost of any setbacks.

Loomis said there haven’t been any major problems to slow the project down, although there have been “a few challenges,” from the property owner around the land of the new tower.

About two acres were purchased from the property owner for the construction of the new tower.

“(The contractor) builds the base first and then the tank gets set up on top,” Loomis said. “You have to have a lot of space to be able to do that.”

One of the concerns voiced in an anonymous phone call to the Kansan was that work on the project was tearing up some of the adjoining property owner’s land.

There also was a report errors were made with the water lines, saying trenches for piping weren’t dug to an adequate depth.

“There haven’t been problems, but there have been changes,” Loomis said. “Anytime when you have a construction project, you have what they call ‘field changes.’”

One of the “field changes” involved a discharge line coming out of the tower that was built a little farther to the north than the plans had called for.

“What happens then is the contractor has to make up that difference,” Loomis said. “It’s not on our cost. The contractor has to do it. Nothing is built incorrectly. That’s normal that you may have a change in the field.”

Loomis said most residents realize that building a new water tower is necessary. One of the issues that raised some eyebrows was the $30,000 to have the clouds painted on the tower.

Loomis said the artwork took advantage of a canvas that was already built.

“When you are putting up public art, you have the option of building something to paint public art on, or, take advantage of what’s already being built. That’s what (the city commission) did.”

Overall, Loomis said the new water tower has brought encouraging attention.

“I think this has been, next to Sand Creek, probably the second most watched project in the last 10 years here in Newton,” she said. “It’s a landmark occurrence when you’re having a water tower raised, because you don’t just do that that often ... We had so many people out along 12th Street that were watching, the day that (the contractors) raised the tank.”

The water tower is the most visible infrastructure project in Newton, but it’s just one of a myriad of projects the public works department is planning or working on.

Additional projects include work at the Logistics Park, paving work for a new hotel and conference center, completion of the Safe Routes to School project and construction of a new fire department.

“We have a lot on our plate,” Loomis said.