New landmark emerges in Washington County
by Marion Rhodes


 Drivers now have a highly visible sign that they're about to enter the city of Blair.

Logos for the city, the public schools and a private college greet motorists from a water tank that was raised Tuesday about 11/2 miles south of town.

With the 1 million gallon tank in place, it won't be long before some residents in southeast Washington County will receive water through a new, roughly 40-mile rural water distribution system.

The $3.5 million system, which also includes a pump station under construction in Blair, is being built by the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District.

The system is expected to play an important role in the area's growth.

Promises of more and cleaner water, an emergency backup system and improved fire protection in some areas are expected to draw more homeowners into the countryside.

Motorists on Nebraska Highway 133 had been seeing signs of the coming tower for weeks as the welded steel water tank was built around the base of a concrete pedestal at the site.

Workers painted on the green tree of the Blair city logo, the purple paw print of the Blair Bears and the red letter "D" for Dana College.

Tuesday they used a hydraulic jack to raise the tank into position. At a speed of about 16 inches per minute, steel cables lifted the tank to the top of the 140-foot tower. After 2 hours and 10 minutes, the bowl was in place.

The tower is Blair's first elevated water tank. The city's current water supply comes from three ground reservoirs.

Dick Sklenar, special projects coordinator for the natural resources district, said the district expects the rural water system to be running in late fall.

The Blair tower will be its main source of water, Sklenar said. The pipelines also connect to the Metropolitan Utilities District for emergency water backup should Blair's plant be disabled.

The resources district and Blair shared the $1.4 million construction cost for the tower. Blair, which will assume ownership of the tower, took over 80 percent of the cost, while the district paid 20 percent.

Contractors will continue to work on the tower for the next six weeks. They still have to finish the inside of the pedestal, where a maintenance shop and electronics room will be situated.

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