The Inland Valley Development Agency (IVDA) on Wednesday, March 10, approved an exterior coating project for the former Norton Air Force Base water tower and a street repair project.

The water tower stands on IVDA property at the northwest corner of Del Rosa Drive and Harry Shepard Boulevard. It remained in service until the early 2000s when, after the airport’s water system was transferred to the city of San Bernardino, the city built a booster station to serve the southwest portion of the airport, replacing the tower’s gravity system. (A second water tower, near Third Street and Victoria Avenue, which also still stands, served the eastern portion of the air base.)

IVDA Executive Director Michael Burrows said the cost of the coating project, not to exceed $375,000, would be cheaper then tearing the tower down. he also said the airport would like to preserve the tower as a historic landmark from the days when San Bernardino International Airport was Norton Air Force Base.

“They’re such an iconic feature and a way to celebrate our veterans,” Burrows said of the air base’s two water towers. “It was a big part of knowing you’re on Norton.”

In other action the board voted 6-2 to allow bidding for a street repair project within the city of San Bernardino on Third Street and Leonard Way.

City of San Bernardino councilmember’s Ben Reynoso and Theodore Sanchez voted against the measure as they thought the project put out for bid did not have a maintenance plan written to cover repairs after construction of the project was completed.

Outgoing Capital Projects Manager Jim Harris told the commission after the vote, “All projects have a one-year warranty on labors, materials and equipment.”

Sanchez responded that he was going to “inspect the road with a microscope,” for any problem spots that may come up.

Burrows said that he would add Sanchez to the “Punch list.”

IVDA’s next meeting is Wednesday, April 14.

The other Norton water tower

Norton Air Force Base's water needs were aided by two water towers, one on the west end of the base and the other on the northeast end.

The northeast tower stands on the south side of Third Street just east of Victoria Avenue and is most familiar to Highland residents.

Both towers serve as historic landmarks of the airport's service as a U.S. Air Force base and are the focus of projects aimed at preserving them as commemoration to the base's Air Force veterans.

According to San Bernardino International Airport Executive Director Michael Burrows, the Third Street tower is owned by San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. The tribe is working on a future project to preserve and relocate (within the property) the tower. This project will entail considerably more work than the Inland Valley Development Agency's re-coating of the west tower and will come at a later time, Borrows said.

Norton Air Force Base Museum President Robert “Bob” Edwards shared a memory about the east Norton water tower, which stands south of Third Street and served the eastern portion of the base:

When I got to base in ’67 ⎯ my first assignment in the Air Force ⎯ I lived in the barracks across from the water tower. Being enterprising young men in 1967, one afternoon we were sitting out on the second floor fire escape enjoying an adult beverage (it had something to do with grapes), watching people come and go from the base theater and on the street. Just watching the evening go by. I happened to look up at the water tower and it started to dance. I thought, ‘Wow, perhaps I’d had too much to drink.’ All of a sudden, I saw all the people running out of the theater; they were coming out like ants. Then I saw the ground ripple and everything was dancing. That was my first experience of an earthquake.

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