water tower removed
Caldwell Tanks ramping down operations
by Sarah Fay Campbell
Another sign of the ramp -down of shop operations at Caldwell Tanks in downtown Newnan was Monday's removal of the water tower on the property — which is painted with the city’s iconic “City of Homes” logo.
Caldwell Tanks Alliance LLC is in the process of closing down the shop at the facility on East Broad Street. The local shop produces steel storage tanks such as water towers; the company also produces prestressed concrete tanks and industrial tanks and vessels.
Caldwell Tanks is moving shop operations to its headquarters in Louisville, Ky.
Even after shop operations in Newnan cease, there will still be an office maintained for engineers, a draftsman, a welding engineer and safety personnel, said Scott McIntire, quality assurance manager.
McIntire estimated shop operations will cease in about six months, but that will depend on jobs that come in. The Newnan location has some specialized equipment, and if work is being done on a job that needs that equipment, that could prolong the end of shop operations.
"We have some very good people here," McIntire said, both in the office and in the shop. But continuing shop operations was "problematic because of the age of the shop" and the state of the economy. "We were running fewer shop hours and we had an underutilized shop in Louisville and a shop in Newnan that was becoming costly to maintain," McIntire said.
"From an economic standpoint, it made sense to move those shop hours to Louisville," he said.
The removal of the water tower isn't a direct result of the ramp-down. The tower, which hasn't been used for many years, was intended to provide water for fire protection. The paint on the tower is in a deteriorating state, so money would have had to be invested in new paint. Since it’s not being used anyway, the decision was made to remove the water tower.
For well more than 100 years, the facility was the home of the R.D. Cole Manufacturing Company. R.D. Cole began operations at the site in 1854 and closed in the early 1970s. Graver Tank owned the facility for about a year, then Brown Steel purchased it, according to McIntire. Brown Steel was sold to Matrix Services of Tulsa, OK, in the mid 1990s, though Brown Steel continued to operate fairly independently through the ‘90s. Caldwell Tanks Alliance LLC bought the facility from Matrix in 1999.
For many years, the whistle at the downtown Newnan facility blew to let employees know it was time for lunch and time to clock in or out. Though the whistle blew each work day up until about four months ago, it hadn't been used for any practical purpose in many years.
McIntire has worked at the facility for 32 years, and though the whistle blew, it wasn't actually being used to notify employees. Shortly after he came to work there, the whistle broke. There was no reason to repair it, he said.
But then there was a public outcry. People in Newnan were used to the whistle blowing, and some used it to set their clocks and watches. "People insisted we turn it on," McIntire said. "It was simply provided for the community."
The whistle was turned off for good about four months ago because of the cost to keep it going. It was operated by a large air compressor. With the reduction in work and personnel at the Newnan facility, "we weren't doing enough work to warrant that larger air compressor," which uses a lot of electricity, McIntire said, so it was turned off.
The Caldwell Tanks property covers 5.5 acres between East Broad Street and Salbide Avenue on the east side of downtown. McIntire said there are no immediate plans for the facility. However, "we're going to be open for opportunities to come up."
According to tax records, the property is owned by Broad Street Forum Inc.
Hasco Craver, the City of Newnan's business development director, said the property has great redevelopment potential. "This could be a big player downtown," he said. "Acres and acres in a central business district, in a dense commercial environment, they just don't come available all the time," he said. The potential of that much land becoming available "gets my mind racing." Craver said he hopes to talk to the property owners about potential redevelopment.