LOGANSPORT, Ind. — Three men on a specialized paint crew suited up in hardhats and full-body harnesses, latched onto safety lines with shock-absorbing lanyards and started a slow ascent dozens of feet into the air.

The “spider basket” — climbing up its wire like a spider to the top of a water tower on Logansport’s East End — and their harnesses were the only thing separating them from the ground below. On Monday, Sept. 26, they were facing a few hours spent up in the air, painting a final coat onto the bowl of one of Logansport’s seven water towers.

But even so, they joked back and forth with their foreman, Darrell Goacher.

“Once you do it so long it’s just like a normal job,” Goacher said. “We’re used to it. It’s just like working on the ground — it’s as safe as you make it.”

The crew from Maxcor Inc., based in New Lenox, Illinois, has spent the last several weeks sandblasting and repainting the 140-foot tower, built in 1971 and last painted in 1999, according to Jim Jackson, manager of the city’s water, wastewater and stormwater departments. Fighting gravity and Mother Nature, the crew has been covering the tower inside and out with water- and weather-resistant materials.

After crew members reached the water tower’s balcony, where condensation had collected after rolling down the side of the tank, they shouted updates down to Goacher, who might send up more supplies — paint or drinking water, for example — via a bucket tied to one of the safety lines. Steady winds blew the lines into gentle arcs contrasting with the ramrod-straight pillars holding up the tank.

The wind rained the pooling condensation down onto anyone lucky enough to be standing below.

“She’s rippin’,” Goacher said of the wind. “This ain’t bad though. They can handle it.”

“Don’t worry your pretty little heart, boss,” Smith shouted down from the rising spider basket a few seconds later, as if to confirm Goacher.

“Just get up there,” Goacher retorted.

“He’s a good little worker so I keep him,” he said of Smith later. Might even become a foreman someday, he added. “I told his dad I’d do the best I could for him and make sure he stays alive.”

He praised the other men too, noting he’d hired Scholl himself. “I got a band of misfits, but they’re still a good crew.”

They renovate water towers, painting them but also carrying out repairs when necessary. On Monday, three members of the crew — Tyler Smith of East Carondelet, Illinois, Lonnie Scholl of Plattsmouth, Nebraska, and Jesse Sheets of Alton, Illinois — got a late start after morning rains meant the water tower surface wasn’t ready until afternoon.

“You have to battle Mother Nature,” Sheets said. If the water tower’s still the least bit wet, the paint won’t adhere to it. So each day they wait until the sun evaporates the dew or rain from the tower’s surface.

Then come the rollers, which go up with the crew in the spider basket —and the paint, gallons and gallons of it.

Goacher doesn’t keep track of exactly how much paint his crew uses, he said. But he estimated about 120 gallons went into painting the inside of the tower.

Crew members said their whole career is spent renovating water towers. And Jackson said Logansport’s $420,000 job saves more work in the long run. “If you wait too long it becomes a lot more complicated and a lot more expensive,” he explained.

The most recent inspections found the tower was due for a face lift, Jackson said.

On Monday, the crew had progressed to finishing most of the work on the tower’s outside.

That’s mostly cosmetic, Goacher said — though it does keep the tower from deteriorating from exposure to the elements. More important, he said, is the paint on the inside, where surfaces are constantly exposed to water.

The tank holds about 500,000 gallons, according to a plaque Goacher held that had been removed from the tower during the paint job. Jackson said the city on average goes through 5 million to 6 million gallons per day — a little less than the 6.5-million-gallon storage capacity across the city’s water towers and two other storage tanks.

When the water finds a weak spot, it attacks. But when Goacher’s crew finds one, they repair it.

“We blasted a hole through the side of the tank,” Goacher said, while sandblasting in preparation for the coats of paint. Three to four days later, they had it fixed.

“The whole reason we have to paint the inside is to protect the steel from doing that” in the future, Scholl chimed in.

Source: (Logansport) Pharos-Tribune, http://bit.ly/2d7vwdO

This is an AP-Indiana Exchange story offered by the (Logansport) Pharos-Tribune.