Look up in the sky … Culkin water tower brightens Bovina nights

Published 12:06 pm Thursday, September 2, 2010

At first, C.C. Hamby didn’t believe his wife and granddaughter about the bright ring of lights encircling the night sky above his house on U.S. 80.

“She said, ‘Come out here and see this flying saucer’,” Hamby said of the night last week, when Autumn, 9, peered out the window and his wife, Susie, dashed outside to gaze at what at first glance easily could be mistaken as Bovina’s nightly “close encounter.”

“Yeah, it looks like one’s flying right over the house,” Hamby said.

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No, it’s not little green men looking to beam the Hambys and others to their mother ship. The east Warren County community’s tallest structure, a water tower, is now its biggest night light.

Installed by Jackson-based Neel-Schaffer, a string of a dozen 400-watt bulbs illuminates the newly built tower’s 300,000-gallon tank with an eerie, yet energy-efficient glow.

The metal halide lights feature pulse-starting ballast, friendlier to the environment than traditional light bulbs, said John W. Gahring of Neel-Schaffer, the engineering firm for the Culkin Water District, which serves most of northeast Warren County. Metal halide lamps produce light by the breakdown of a mix of gases, including argon, mercury and various chemical salts in metal form.

No matter how much energy is used by each lamp to produce light — about 24 percent, making it more efficient than fluorescent and incandescent lamps — it’s the specter of a flying disc coming over the trees that’s been the conversation piece in the Hamby house.

“It’s been quite the topic,” said Susie Hamby.

Erected this spring, the new tank replaced a silvery, weatherbeaten tank that dated to the old Bovina Water Club that preceded Culkin’s service to the area by decades. The new tank was financed by a $3.2 million portion of the Drinking Water Systems Improvement Revolving Loan Fund, administered by the Mississippi Department of Health. Improvements to the independent water district’s system planned beyond 2010 involve an additional well, a systemwide pipe upgrade and a new office building.