The Hull Historical Commission is requesting that an article be included in the May 3 annual town meeting warrant to bond the necessary money to restore the Fort Revere water tower and bring it back to its original glory. The 1903 tower was deemed unsafe for visitors and was closed in 2012.
The commission’s request was conveyed in an email to the Board of Selectmen and Town Manager Philip Lemnios on Wednesday.
“Fort Revere and Fort Independence played a key role in the American Revolution and in establishing these United States of America,” the HHS letter states. “In turn, the Fort Revere Tower serves as an historic beacon of American values, freedom, and patriotism and deserves this restoration for the people of Hull.”
At its Jan. 19 meeting, the commission reviewed and discussed a recent selectmen-commissioned CBI Consulting report evaluating the condition of the 85-foot water tower, with an estimated price tag of $1.5 million to rehabilitate the structure. The study was paid for from Community Preservation Act funds.
CPA funds come from a tax surcharge adopted by Hull voters in recent years for the express purpose of supporting open space, historic preservation, affordable housing, and certain recreational projects. The state provides partial matching funds.
Voters supported a 2019 town meeting warrant article that appropriated $40,000 from the historic preservation reserve and $60,000 from the community preservation general fund – for a total of $100,000 – to be used by the historical commission for the preservation and rehabilitation of the water tower at Farina Road.
The 38-page assessment, which is part of that effort, makes recommendations for repairs that would extend the tower’s useful life.
“We voted to stand behind and support the report,” the letter further states. “The Historical Commission would like to request that the town consider presenting an article on the May 03, 2021 Annual Town Meeting Warrant to bond the necessary money for the rehabilitation of the water tower.”
Proposed improvements include: replacing the deteriorated windows to reduce water infiltration to the interior of the tower; removing and replacing the existing slate roof and copper work; removing and rebuilding the deteriorated bricks; repairing the water tank walls; removing and rebuilding the concrete stairs with new metal stairs and metal railings; repairing the observatory beams, mortar and observation deck work; constructing a new code-compliant egress stair for public access to the observation deck; repairing the base of the tower and the decorative bands; and implementing other improvements.
Handicapped-accessible requirements would also need to be met; one solution would be an outside elevator.
Possible funding sources will be explored, including additional CPA funds, grants (although they are rare for this kind of work), and a debt exclusion (temporary increase in taxes to pay for a project), Lemnios had reported at a meeting last fall. “The water tower has been a topic of conversation for many years, and [towns]people are passionate about it,” he said. No decisions have yet been made.
The next move would be a meeting involving the selectmen, historical commission, the Friends of Fort Revere, members of the town’s Community Preservation Committee, and other interested parties to decide how to proceed.
When asked for a progress report this week, Lemnios said the CBI assessment “is under evaluation and review at this time.”
Selectman Greg Grey said that a public forum should be the next step to gauge where citizens’ priorities lie. “Do the townspeople want more infrastructure work done or the tower repairs?” he asked.