Tower may have new site

Published 5:14 pm Friday, July 12, 2013

An old coastal-warning display tower in Washington may have found a new home.

During its July 1 meeting, the Washington City Council gave the OK for plans to erect the tower at the new site to proceed.

“A possible site for the new tower location has been selected. There have been discussions with the Partnership for the NC Partnership for the Sounds and the NC Estuarium concerning their property being used as a permanent site for the property,” wrote John Rodman, the city’s planning and development director, in a memorandum to the mayor and council.

The memorandum indicates the tower would be erected where the Sprout kiosk now stands. That kiosk, which provided weather and environmental data, has been out of service for about a year. The company that built and erected the kiosk has gone out of business, according to Rodman.

It would cost an estimated $14,200 to refurbish and relocate the tower, which is about 50 feet tall, according to Rodman’s memorandum. The estimate does not include buying new weather flags or signal lights for the tower.

Councilman Doug Mercer, during the meeting, asked who would pay for relocating the tower.

“I know that we agreed to accept the ownership of that tower and we (the city) spent some monies on taking it down and refurbishing it. There is a suggestion here that it be placed on the properties that are leased to the Estuarium, and if the Estuarium is agreeable to put it on that property, I have no difficulty. If the funds we have appropriated at this point in time are not adequate to effect that relocation, who’s going to pay for it?” Mercer said.

City staff told the council that appears there adequate funding to relocate the tower.

“Right. So, if that’s not the case, I’m sure you’ll come back to us and we’ll have to make other arrangements,” Mayor Archie Jennings said.

The tower, which once displayed weather flags during the day and used lights at night, had been on Jim Miller’s property at 720 E. Main St., where it had been since the 1940s.

The former U.S. Weather Bureau once used such towers to display signal flags to warn mariners of wind shifts and approaching storms. Scores of these towers were built after 1898, when President McKinley ordered the Weather Bureau to implement a hurricane-warning system for ships. Use of the forecast flags faded after 1925 as radio stations assumed the role of broadcasting local weather conditions. The National Weather Service discontinued its coastal-warning system in 1989.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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