Updated:LEESBURG, Fla. —
Part of a Leesburg landmark was cut down on Wednesday. A large water tower along US-27 is past its prime and the city is spending $2 million to replace it.
The city financed the project before the economy went south. Workers cut off the top half of the tower on Wednesday.
By the time they're done there will be 70 tons of steel on the pile. The city of Leesburg's southern border will never be the same. For Ralph Daniels, it's a crying shame.
"It is. That's what it is for us. It's been there a long time," said Daniels.
The landmark has been there since the early 80s, but the 200,000 gallon water tank and tower along US-27 is being cut down piece by piece.
"Are water towers going the way of the dinosaur?" WFTV's Berndt Peterson asked.
"I believe so, yes," said Al Purvis, with the public works department. "I believe up north they still use them quite a bit. But down here in Florida, everybody is getting rid of them."
The city spent $2 million on a state-of-the-art ground level tank and pumping system to help improve the water pressure. But just last week, city leaders were trying to figure out how to cover a budget shortage of $1.7 million.
"Anybody who attended that recent City Commission meeting would say, 'How in the world are you affording this?' The financing for this project goes back about four or five years," said Leesburg spokesman Robert Sargent.
The new system will serve 5,000 homes across several communities, including Legacy, Highland Lakes and Spanish Village. And while many residents had hoped the tower could be left alone as a landmark, it was not an option.
"As long as you leave it up, you have to continue to maintain it. And eventually it gets so old and so degraded, you're going to have to take it down," said Sargent.
The rest of the tank and tower will be down and hauled away in a few days.