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City paints fir trees on two water tanks

Two Hennig’s Mural Design employees paint an evergreen forest-scape on the larger of two water city storage tanks off Heller Road. - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
Two Hennig’s Mural Design employees paint an evergreen forest-scape on the larger of two water city storage tanks off Heller Road.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

Motorists who travel Heller Road may notice a change in scenery this week as the two city water reservoirs disappear into the landscape thanks to Oak Harbor’s dedicated art fund.

A two-man crew from Hennig Mural Design spent three days beautifying the 2-million-gallon tank and 500,000-gallon tank with a forest-scape mural of dark green and pastel blue, following a routine mechanical paint stripping, power washing and base coat by Washington Industrial Coatings.

The reservoirs’ new paint job, which cost about $90,000, is part of its routine maintenance, which is included in the city’s utilities budget. City Civil Engineer Russ Pabarcus said the tanks were last painted about 20 years ago.

The evergreen and sky blue mural, however, is something new for Oak Harbor’s Heller Road water towers. The artwork, by Hennig Mural Design, drew roughly $18,000 from the city’s bygone 1 percent dedicated art fund, said Pabarcus.

The new paint job and mural are expected to last another 20 years or more, he said.

Carla Freund, vice-chair of the Oak Harbor Arts Commission, hasn’t seen the finished product yet, but thinks the dedicated art funds were well-spent considering the tight restrictions on the project’s funding source.

“I think it makes people look at a water tower differently,” she said of the mural.

The money for this job was restricted for use on a water utility project, said Paul Schmidt, city administrator, because the funding was generated through the city’s old art ordinance.

In April the Oak Harbor City Council approved a set of amendments to the ordinance. Their decision nixed the 1 percent fund formerly drawn from capital projects, which was covered by city utility rate-payers, and replaced the art funding revenue stream with a .25 percent utility tax on water suppliers, sewage treatment and collection providers. The tax is expected to raise between $25,000 and $28,000 each year, Schmidt said.

The cost-neutral change now provides a steady funding stream and eliminated restrictions on where the art could be placed, which solved two of the major problems the city’s Art Commission faced while delegating the funds, which included difficulty planning art installations from an erratic revenue stream and tight restrictions on the use of the art funds.

A mural will not be painted on Oak Harbor’s original water reservoir on Regatta Drive because the city plans to demolish it sometime next year following construction of a new tank somewhere between Oak Harbor Road and Goldie Street, Pabarcus said.

Community Events, April 2014

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