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Eyebrows will no doubt rise when taxpayers learn that the expected cost of painting the north and south standpipe water towers will probably exceed $2.75 million. But as Director of Utilities Dave Stoneback explained to the RoundTable, the project involves far more than simply slapping paint on a smooth surface.

Both the interior and exterior of the towers must be sandblasted and then repainted, said Director Stoneback. The south tower measures 132 feet tall and 85 feet in diameter; the north, 127.5 feet tall and 98 feet in diameter. Because the towers have two coats of paint on them already, those layers must be removed, and sandblasting requires shielding to prevent material from blowing all over the City on the wind.

Because the interior paint will be in direct contact with drinking water, must be NSF-approved, making it more expensive. The “NSF” is the National Sanitation Foundation, an organization that, according to its website, tests, audits and certifies products that come into contact with food or water.

The inside dome roofs of the towers are made up of structural steel elements that must be sandblasted and painted. Mr. Stoneback said that minor concrete work needs to be done as well.

Even with all the additional work in mind, however, Mr. Stoneback said the vast majority of the cost is paint – and painting such large structures. City Council approved the engagement of a consultant in November, said Mr. Stoneback. The consultant will assist in preparation of the bid documents, but will also “perform inspection services during the project.” Inspections will include assurance of compliance with safety regulations – for example, safety harnesses must be worn when painting over 100 feet in the air.

Mr. Stoneback said he anticipates that one tower will be painted in 2014, the next in 2015. The paint should last for some time – the towers were last painted in 1996 and 1997.