Victoria's new water tower, waterline will improve water pressure

$4 million project will sustain growth, water needs of growing town.

Margaret Allen
Hays Daily News
Jay Barner, an employee of Gerard Tank & Steel, of Concordia, welds the outside seams of a new water tower under construction in Victoria.
Jay Barner, an employee of Gerard Tank & Steel, of Concordia, welds the water tower under construction in Victoria.
Nick Gerard, tank erection supervisor with Gerard Tank & Steel, of Concordia, climbs onto the crane he operates for construction of a new water tower in Victoria.

Around mile marker 164 on Interstate 70, eastbound travelers looking at the horizon to the southeast see the twin spires of the Basilica of St. Fidelis in Victoria, as well as the town’s two water towers.

One water tower is the old one built in 1922, and the other is a brand new one under construction, part of a $4 million project to upgrade and expand the city’s water system.

“It’s a very large project that should help sustain the growth and water needs of Victoria for a long time to come,” said Brad Schmidtberger, city superintendent.

Besides the new water tower, the project also includes replacing a large number of the oldest waterlines in town, refurbishing the city’s water well field, as well as connecting to Trego County Rural Water District No. 1, said Mayor John Schulte.

The project is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program.

“We had qualified for those USDA loans and grants,” Schulte said. “We will obviously be repaying those loans over many, many years.”

While the paperwork for the project started before Schulte was elected mayor in January 2018, construction started in August 2020. At that time, the paving division of Apac Shears in Hutchinson poured the thick concrete foundation for the new water tower, said Rich Guffey, of Hays, the engineer’s representative on site for EBH & Associates P.A. Engineering, of Pratt, which specializes in handling small town engineering jobs.

The old water tower, a silver tank perched on steel legs and occupying a half-block on Hickory Street between 10th and 11th streets, has a 50,000-gallon capacity.

The new water tower, also steel, is located at the north edge of town at the end of Squires Street, and holds three times more, with a 150,000-gallon capacity.

Weighing in at 150,000 pounds, the new water tower will gain another 400,000 pounds when filled with water, Guffey said. It’s hoped the new water tower will be operational by summer, he said.

Manufactured by Gerard Tank & Steel, much of the tower was prefabricated at the company’s facility in Concordia. At 138 feet tall, the base cone was assembled in the shop in Concordia, said Guffey, as was much of the bottom half.

Hauled to Victoria, the pre-assembled pieces were stacked and welded together. The tank arrived in sections, and was put together on the ground, then hoisted atop the soaring base, Guffey said.

On Thursday, Gerard employee Jay Barner was high in the sky on a scaffold welding the outside seams of the tank. Nick Gerard, tank erection supervisor, was operating the 270,000-pound capacity crane.

“There’s not too many companies around that do this,” Gerard said. After the outside seams are welded, the tank and tower must be sealed and painted, a process that depends on the weather cooperating with some warmer temperatures.

“These guys have done a great job,” said Guffey. “I think it will be most of the year before the process is completed and online.”

The process of hooking up Victoria to Trego Rural Water is nearly complete. Victoria will then supplement its well field capacity with water from the water district.

The city of 1,220 and growing averages water usage of about 70,000 to 75,000 gallons a day, Schmidtberger said. The new water tower will improve water pressure throughout many areas of town, he said.

The project will unfold in phases, including re-drilling two of the six active wells in the town’s well field south of town, said Schmidtberger.