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  • Writer's pictureRoger Sims, Journal Staff

Rural Water District No. 2 dedicates tower in Mound City man's memory

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

Rural Water District No. 2 vice-president Shane Kern, from left, steadies the ribbon as London and Addison Otto cut it with the guidance of board member Steve Hedges. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was to formally dedicate the 75,000-gallon tower to the memory of the girls' father, Chris Otto. (Photos by Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)

MOUND CITY – The morning was overcast but warm as about 70 people gathered three miles southwest of Mound City in a ribbon-cutting ceremony – a ceremony that marked the construction of a new 102-foot high water tower, the completion of a water line project in the Sugar Valley Lake development, and a project that honored the son of the family that donated land for the tower.

The ceremony began with a welcome by Linn County Rural Water District No. 2 board member Kevin Amer, an invocation by board member Joe Hall, and introductions by board vice president Shane Kern.

Louis Funk of Topeka-based Barlett & West, a consulting engineer for the water district, talked about the history of the project, which the district’s board began supporting in 2017 after discussing the need for some time.

Funk’s firm began design work on the project, which included installing about five miles of water line around Sugar Valley Lake development, in 2018 and construction began in 2021.

The $2.2 million project ran into cost overruns, but a $360,000 grant from the state’s Rural Development office helped the board finish the project. The remainder of the fund came in the form of a 40-year loan at 1% interest rate, he said.

The new water tower replaced an 8,000-gallon, 80-foot-tall stand pipe on the site. Adding about 22 feet to the height boosted the water pressure across the district by 2 pounds, and increasing the capacity by nearly 10 times to 75,000 gallons was a little oversized, at least for now, Funk said.

“This tower will be here for 100 years, and this district will continue to grow,” he said. “We didn’t want to undersize it; it’s sized for the future.”

As the crowd listened and looked around them, it was apparent that the hill the tower sits on overlooks land for miles around.

“This is definitely the site we wanted,” Funk said.

Kenny Otto, father of the late Chris Otto, talks about his sons during the ceremony.

The family of the late Chris Otto provided the land for the tower, which is painted blue with a white sphere on top. Otto’s father, Kenny Otto, noted the resemblance to a golf ball on a tee. Golf, he said, was one of his son’s passions, adding that was appropriate for a tower dedicated to his son’s memory.

Kenny, former principal of Jayhawk-Linn High School, said that Chris had helped him build a corral on the site of the new tower when he was 7 years old, and he talked about memories the site held.

Chris was killed about four years ago as the result of vehicle accident in Wyoming. The JLHS graduate was 38 at the time.

The dedication was attended by a group of employees from CS Carey Inc., a Kansas City, Kan., mulch manufacturing company where Chris worked. Those co-workers and many of the family wore navy blue t-shirts with “Get Your Grind On” emblazoned across the back.

The ceremony ended with Chris Otto’s daughters Addison Otto, 13, and London Otto, 11, cutting the ribbon.

At the end of the ceremony, water district office manager Paula Smalley unveiled the plaque that will be affixed to the tower and the plaque that will hang on the wall of the district office in Mound City.

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