'); } -->
Share your community news, announcements and events with us.
News of the potential doom of the Cary High School water tower has spurred hundreds to sign an online petition.
The signers, including many alumni, want the town to preserve the aging tower, which long has been painted to honor graduating high school classes.
Town staff plan to tear down the circa-1965 tower within four years and build anew in a different location, citing excessive costs to update and maintain the outdated half-million-gallon tank.
That idea doesn’t sit well with folks who see the tower and its “class of” lettering as one of the last bastions of the Cary they knew.
“The water tower is truly a historic monument in our town, and I don’t know that the new elected officials understand that. … It’s served us well, and it has a story,” said Jeanna Benoy, the class of 1972 graduate who started the petition at change.org.
Addressed to town staff and elected officials, the petition requests a halt to the demolition plan, describing the water tower as a symbol of success and communal bonding.
As of Thursday afternoon, change.org counted 621 “signatures” of the online petition. Most users cited a childhood connection to the tower, including graduates from the 1970s through today, but some had moved as far as Texas.
The town is weighing its options and plans to hire a consultant as it decides what to do with the tank, according to Tim Bailey, Cary’s engineering director.
Possibilities include keeping the tank or finding another way to preserve the painting tradition, Bailey said in an email.
“Community response has been significant and helpful. … I anticipate it will be several months before we can collect the necessary information and community feedback to make a decision,” Bailey wrote.
Councilman Jack Smith, whose district includes the 165-foot tower, was less than optimistic. “The last thing you want to do is have a rusted piece of metal sitting there, and then you’re going to be spending thousands on Rust-Oleum,” said Smith, who has served on the council for more than 20 years. “The solution is not to save the water tower.”
He noted the town only started painting the tower in the 1980s to stop students from illegally doing it themselves. That fact, he said, shouldn’t obligate the town to maintain the structure indefinitely.
Town staff say they need to build a larger tank elsewhere in central Cary and that the cost of stripping and repairing the Cary High School tower is prohibitive. “In the ideal world, I think it would be great if we got out of the business of marking up water towers,” Smith said, adding that other schools often ask why their towers aren’t painted.
Town staff have said previously that the tower near Cary High honors all the town’s graduates.
Neither Smith nor Benoy are sure what’s coming next. Benoy is talking with dozens of other graduates to see whether a preservation plan might be possible, while Smith says he and the town will approach the tower with an open mind.
Town estimates on maintenance costs for the tower weren’t immediately available.