Rocky Mountain House's Water Tower Will Be Torn Down After Helipad Mistake

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Rocky Mountain House's water tower will be torn down after an adjacent hospital constructed a helipad. | Bill Graveland/CP

ROCKY MOUNTAIN HOUSE, Alta. — An iconic water tower overlooking a scenic town in west-central Alberta is headed for the scrap heap because of a mistake made during the construction of a new hospital helipad.

The decommissioned, 18-metre cylinder has cast a shadow over Rocky Mountain House since it was built in 1963, proudly displaying the town's name and the slogan "Where Adventure Begins!''

Its fate was sealed, however, when the adjacent hospital went to reconstruct its helipad.

Alberta Health Services said it asked its consultants whether the massive blue and white tower jutting high into the sky next door would be an issue.

"We were told that all that would be required was a new set of lights to illuminate the tower,'' said Kerry Bales, a chief zone officer with the public agency. "That wasn't accurate information and it's unfortunate.''

Tower would have to be painted orange and white

It turns out, under Transport Canada regulations, the tower would have to be painted in an orange-and-white checkerboard pattern to make it more visible for air ambulance pilots.

Moving the landmark is too expensive, said Rocky Mountain House town manager Todd Becker. Tearing it down is expensive too.

"Painting is the cheapest option but, being a landmark, we'd have to paint at least the top half of that tower an orange-and-white checkered pattern and our emblem would have to be removed,'' Becker said.

"We didn't want to have that as our landmark.''

"We didn't want to have that as our landmark."

So down the tower will come, likely by the end of the year.

Locals in the town 7,300 about 200 kilometres northwest of Calgary are none too pleased.

"It makes me angry,'' said longtime resident Bernie Visotto. "Because of Alberta Health Service's neglect, oversight or incompetence — however you want to put it — we're losing our water tower.''

Visotto said she realizes many people don't need the landmark with the popularity of GPS, but she would always tell visitors to look for the water tower to find their way.

"To me it's been part of Rocky Mountain House and it's been an identifying landmark so it's pretty grim.''

Daryld Denham said he'd prefer a checkerboard landmark to no landmark at all.

"It's been here as long as I can remember and I'm not that young anymore,'' he said. "Painting might have made it stand out more as a landmark, but I think they should just have left it alone, refurbished it and left it the way it was.''

Tower will be demolished

A final cost for demolishing the tower and moving the communication equipment on top will be presented to council at the start of November. An initial estimate pegged it at $430,000.

Alberta Health Services have promised to foot the bill, but Visotto noted taxpayers are on the hook either way.

"We pay for it by losing our water tower and, of course, since Alberta Health Services uses tax dollars, our taxes are going to pay to have it demolished,'' she said.

"We're going to have to pay for that no matter what.''

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