Battle over Needville water tower reaches breaking point

NEEDVILLE, Texas – Many people in the Fort Bend County town of Needville believe the downtown water tower is a diamond in the rough that, with a little polish, can become a focal point for small businesses and tourists.

However, a recent vote by the City Council will see demolition of the tower begin this weekend. Two city aldermen told KPRC the tower is in a state of disrepair, no longer needed to provide water service to the town and would be too expensive to turn into a landmark.

“We don't have much in Needville, as far as like historical value,” said small business owner Korey Garza.

The tower was originally built for the military and sold to the town at the end of World War II. The fight to save the tower started two years ago when demolition when the issue of demolition was first raised.

“I'm disappointed,” said real estate broker, Vicki Miller. “It’s an icon for Needville. It preserves our downtown. Just like our sign says, 'Welcome to historic Needville.'”

The Needville Preservation Project was created to start raising money to save the tower. Miller said events like Hurricane Harvey slowed that effort, but a Facebook group dedicated to the project has garnered nearly 800 members. Garza helped with that effort by printing and selling T-shirts.

“So that's what we did to raise awareness, about that this was even going on,” said Garza.

Two years later, not enough money was raised and council voted it was time to go.

“It's a quick fix, but this is a historic landmark,” said Rick Sinclair, a former alderman.

Sinclair believes the money the city is spending for demolition can be coupled with money being raised by the Preservation Project to save the tower.

“We can raise the money required. Why spend taxpayer funds?” said Sinclair.

KPRC attempted to speak with Needville’s mayor, but were told he was out of town. The mayor has not responded to a request via email to his city address. Alderman Andrew Bohac and Scott McElrath said it simply would cost more to preserve the tower, because it would have to be repainted and filled with sand. Both said the tower is no longer needed to provide water to the town.

“It’s served its purpose,” said McElrath.

Still, many are hoping for a last-minute reprieve to save what they believe can become a focal point to attract small businesses and tourists while preserving an historic feel.

“That's what I would like to see here, especially as a business owner to drive traffic this way,” said Garza.

Work to dismantle the tower is scheduled to begin Saturday. Some have raised concerns about how the lead paint on the tower will be handled. The two alderman we spoke with said demolition will be handled properly. The state commission on environmental quality responded to KPRC late this Thursday, stating it has received a complaint about this and referred it to the Department of State Health Services.

KPRC received this response after-hours and have not yet had a chance to follow up with that agency.