The water tower at the St. Clair Shores Golf Club was taken down by a demolition crew shortly after 11 a.m. on July 17.

The water tower at the St. Clair Shores Golf Club was taken down by a demolition crew shortly after 11 a.m. on July 17.

Photo by Patricia O'Blenes

St. Clair Shores water tower taken down

By: Alyssa Ochss | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published July 17, 2023

Featured Gallery (Click to view)


ST. CLAIR SHORES — A demolition crew brought down the water tower at the St. Clair Shores Golf Club on July 17, despite a months-long effort to save it.

As a crowd of people watched, the tower came crashing to the ground shortly after 11 a.m. after workers sawed through the tower’s support beams. Residents stood at the fence around the golf course near Masonic Boulevard and Harper Avenue, and at Masonic Heights Elementary School across the street, with their phones out to record the tower fall. Many golfers stopped to watch as well.

Members of the Save the St. Clair Shores Water Tower group were there, including Donna Kalis and Michael McCain, who were both saddened to see the water tower go. The group put in an effort to save the tower by fundraising and raising awareness. As of July 17, it had raised $1,010 through a GoFundMe effort.

“It’s very, very sad,” McCain said after the tower fell. “I feel it’s a part of history that can no longer be saved.”

Kalis said she has fond memories of the water tower, of seeing it when she came home from traveling for her late husband’s medical appointments and other things.

“It’s a loss,” Kalis said. “To me, when I would come home from somewhere, that would tell me it’s home.”

During public comment at the St. Clair Shores City Council meeting on July 17, Kalis said there were discrepancies in what water tower bids for rehabilitation were online.

“When I clicked on that link, the specs (were) for a 1-million-gallon water tower in Northfield, Minnesota,” Kalis said.

She also said the water tower’s neighbors on Masonic Boulevard and Robeson Street were not notified about the demolition. She stated a few of the neighbors asked about the tower, including a woman who lives on Masonic, and that they said they were never told about it.

“We told her, and she says, ‘I never got anything, not even a flyer on my door,’ and that was wrong,” Kalis said.

Resident and City Council candidate Bryan Owens also spoke during the public comment section of the council meeting. He said his family is connected to the water tower and that he’s just one person that has memories of the structure. He said what the council had in front of them was a failure.

“You guys should be ashamed of yourselves. You were unable to keep one of our city structures up,” Owens said. “The lies that were told, the misuse of money, the wool pulled over people’s eyes in this water tower (situation). You all should be ashamed of yourself for it.”

Mayor Kip Walby later declined to comment on the meeting and said he doesn’t respond to public comments from the residents.

Citing concerns about its structural integrity, members of the St. Clair Shores City Council voted 5-2 on Feb. 21 to demolish the tower that has stood on the property since the 1920s.

Councilman John Caron voted in favor of the demolition in February and called the tower’s collapse “a matter of time.”

Vin-Con was awarded the demolition bid at a cost of $53,809 with a 10% contingency fee, bringing the total amount to $59,189.

Councilmen Dave Rubello and Chris Vitale voted against the demolition.

Vitale later said in an interview the tower was something they did not have the money for considering all the other projects the city has.

“The tower has had multiple reprieves and we didn’t get any interest from anyone, the cost to make it structurally sound,” Vitale said. “It was not something we could spend money (on).”

It was previously pointed out that federally protected birds of prey were nesting in the tower. Drone footage later showed the birds to be great horned owls and it delayed the demolition plans until the owl and its young were out of the nest.

Walby later reiterated the upkeep cost of the tower, which he said was around $500,000.

At the Feb. 21 meeting, there were no bids for rehabilitation of the water tower.

“At the end of the day, we made a financial decision in regards to the water tower,” Walby said.

Rubello said on July 17 that he wanted to find the safest solution possible for the people and the environment. He said in a phone call that’s one of his jobs as a city councilman.

“That’s what we’ve been after all along,” Rubello said. “And we wanted a chance to have a nice community project raise funds to fix it without using the city’s money.”

He later said he did not fault the city’s administration, stating they get their “marching orders” from the City Council.

“I just wanted to have a community project with the schools and fundraisers and people,” Rubello said. “Because, as you saw, the water tower wasn’t going anywhere for a really long time. You could have ran a train through it.”