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Okemah residents want to keep water towers

Posted at 7:14 PM, Feb 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-22 20:14:53-05

OKEMAH, Okla- In his song Pass Away, Folk musician Woody Guthrie sang 'City and town they'll pass away pass away, Town and city both pass away pass away, Dreams and stars they'll pass away, Not a word of mine will ever pass away."

Now in his hometown of Okemah, Okla., Guthrie's words live on, but part of his city is set to pass away. Many of Okemah's residents though aren't ready to say goodbye just yet. 

On Monday evening more than 100 people showed up at a city meeting to show Okemah's leaders how much the city supports the water towers. 

Three water towers stand in the middle of the Okemah and can be seen from miles away. The iconic water towers are even incorporated into the city's logo. Built in the early 1900's, two of the towers display the words "Hot" and "Cold". Those two towers are no longer used and show their age.

In earlier February, city leaders voted to demolish the towers and accepted an $80,000 bid to take down the towers. The total bid accepted of $488,000, includes several other items, including rehabilitation for the town's working water tower which displays the words 'Home of Woody Guthrie."

On Monday, city manager Richard Hart said the towers could be demolished later this year, as soon as the Principle Industrial Services out of Chico, Texas finalizes paperwork and secures insurance for the demolition.

"When you start talking lead based paint and few other things, with the shape that they're in, you got some concerns," Hart said when asked why the towers need to be torn down. 

Also concerning, significant amounts of rust and a loose top on one of the towers.

After hearing the towers are set to be demolished, high school senior Justin Baker stopped to take photos of the towers on Monday for Okemah High School's yearbook.

"We hope to keep this as our front page, or our back page, with seniors signing in the sky," he said. "Just to have a reminder of what we use to have in Okemah."

Around town, many people said they grew up with the towers being part of the city's image and want to see Okemah's leaders and residents find a way to keep them standing. 

"I would miss them," Beth Barrett said. "I think everybody else would too. I don't want them to tear them down."

A petition has also been started online, with the goal of showing support for the towers. Hundreds of signatures have been collected - with the hope of making sure the water towers don't simply pass away.

"This is called historic Okemah," RD Rosso said. "If you're going to take all the history out of here, change it to modern if you're going to change everything. But it is very nice like it is."

Others believe the towers put Okemah on the map, so they should be preserved. 

"The towers have come iconic, associated with the town of Okemah and Okemah with the towers," Jim Morgan said. "There loss I think would be significant. I think they should be preserved."

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