Talks move forward on Tulare’s ‘glass of milk’

Board of public utilities to vote on $72,400 to help repaint trademark water tower, more needed from community fundraising

TULARE – In 1976, Don LeBaron boldly climbed the Tulare water tower as a photographer to shoot a panoramic photo for the Tulare Advance Register. At the June 1 city council meeting he took the pulpit as a member of the Tulare Cultural Art Foundation to advocate for the town’s trademark “glass of milk,” for which council directed staff to take an item to the board of public utilities to vote on $72,400 to help repaint.

“This project in 2004 was groovy then, and it will be groovy now,” LeBaron addressed the council. “The artwork on that tower is quite simple…I think we could even add more.”

LeBaron said he’s been in contact with Visalia-based artist Patrick Barszcz—who painted Tulare’s World War I mural “The Donut Girls” on the corner of the Salvation Army Community Center building—to update the glass of milk.

The water tower is due for an inspection and paint job, which Public Works Director Trisha Whitfield said the city has around $310,000 budgeted for. The quote included for the base paint and lettering was $72,400. To further update the paint job on the water tower, the community would need to raise about $53,000 from various organizations and nonprofits.

“Not only do I think we can raise enough money, I want to see that thing even better—I want to see the artwork even better,” Lebaron said before floating an idea by the council. “We contact Nabisco and we float two Oreos in that thing…that’s thinking outside the glass. It’s going to be better than the first one.”

LeBaron was a part of the committee that originally commissioned the water tower to be painted back in 2004.

“I called it a scar in the sky, because it was just that big, silver scar in the sky,” LeBaron said. “Now, because of the community effort and the city’s effort, we turned it into something we can all be proud of.”

LeBaron and the cultural arts committee were able to raise around $40,000 and get local artist Colleen Chronister on board to take her talents up to the highest point in Tulare.

Chronister spent three days detailing the lines and bubbles on the now-iconic glass of milk by way of crane, Labaron said, lifted up in a basket to spend the day painting high in the sky. A local welding shop was commissioned to fabricate the straw and triple weld it to the top of the water tower.

The glass of milk—while it is a century-old relic built in 1913 by the Pittsburgh-Des Moines Steel Company—still provides function for the city. Tulare water and wastewater collections utility manager Tim Doyle said the 125,000 gallon water storage tower provides fire protection and acts as a shock absorber for pressure changes from the various wells turning on and off in the water system.

Doyle said inspection is routine every 5-10 years, where they will look to make sure the structure is still sound, clean the interior and any rust found, as well as check all the safety equipment, ladders and handrails.

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