Tortoise holes delay water tower demolition

Davenport to move protected animals

For a quarter century, Kenny Gill has looked outside his window to see a direct view of Davenport's iconic water tower. And he's just about seen enough. The rusty old structure was supposed to be demolished this year, but delays have kept the decaying tower standing precariously close to his house.

"They've known that it needs to be taken down for years and years," said Gill, talking about Davenport city officials who approved the teardown earlier this year.

"All I can say is if any part of it falls on my house and property, they have to pay for it," Gill said.

There's just one hitch. City workers discovered two holes which appear to be gopher tortoise tunnels near the tower's foundation. The animals are a protected species, so the tower demolition has been put on hold until an environmentalist can assess whether the holes contain any tortoises and whether an excavation is necessary to move them to a new habitat.

"They were going to start on a project and then all of a sudden they were going to kill it because of two tortoises?  Come on, give me a break," Gill said.

City manager Amy Arrington said it will cost the city just under $7,000 to remove the tortoises, and the tower demolition can resume in December.

"If we discover a tortoise in the burrow, they will be removed and taken to an approved mitigated site for their new home," Arrington said.

The water tower will be replaced by a monopole which will be equipped with cellphone equipment for Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon. Some residents said the city is losing one of its icons.

Even Gill said he will miss the view but not the danger.  

"I hate to see it go because it's a landmark," Gill said.

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