NEWTON — It weighs 22,000 pounds, measures 193 feet long and 8 feet in diameter at its base, and it could be a new local landmark.
In an effort to make Newton more appealing and distinguishable to in-town visitors and passersby on Interstate 80, Bruce Showalter is proposing a TPI Composites-made wind turbine blade be used as a sculpture. The chairman of the Newton Hometown Pride Committee and housing director of Newton Housing Development Corporation brought forth the idea to city council members during a Monday workshop at the DMACC Newton Campus.
Acknowledging the wind blade sculpture is not a fully approved plan, Showalter approached the Newton City Council to ask for its support and blessing moving forward with the possible project, which aligns with the Newton Future Committee/Newton Hometown Pride Committee’s 2017 goals of making Newton more memorable and inviting to the approximately 15,000 travelers who drive by the town each day.
If approved and agreed upon by necessary parties, Showalter envisions the wind blade, which he said has been offered to the Newton Hometown Pride Committee by TPI, would be installed at a select location in town. TPI Composites opened its Newton wind blade plant in September 2008, producing blades for General Electric Energy.
“The City of Newton has kind of become known as the wind energy capital of Iowa, I guess,” Showalter said during the workshop meeting. “Being 200 feet in the air with the wind and flexibility and stuff, they said you’re going to have to have pylons in the ground probably at least 70 feet down, plus a huge mass of concrete at the surface to support that and to keep it from tipping over.”
Much like the wind turbine blade sculpture installed at an I-80 rest area between the Iowa towns of Adair and Casey, Showalter imagines the Newton sculpture would stand upright and be easily noticed by motorists. However, he did think of other possibilities for council members.
Showalter originally had two locations in mind for the would-be sculpture: near the Highway 14 bridge over I-80 or at a site just south of I-80 on Noble Ford land. Showalter said he contacted the Iowa Department of Transportation with plans to install the wind blade at the first site at a 45-degree angle between the lanes of the highway bridge and the interstate but was given a long list of reasons as to why that would not work. The blade would stand upright, or vertical, at the second location.
“Now we’ve kind of circled back around and started looking for new sites,” Showalter said. “Recently, (Jasper County’s Hometown Pride Community Coach) Jeff Davidson and I went out and looked at Agnes Patterson Park and both (Interstate 80 exits) 164 and 168. We talked to some people about the green space and possibly putting it on the DMACC Campus.”
Upon further site searching, Showalter said he and Davidson found a green space between Highway 14 and the front road to Culver’s, in front of the future Hardee’s restaurant currently under construction. Showalter said the IDOT agreed that particular space was a viable possibility.
However, plans are still in final approval.
Showalter said he spoke with an engineer who designed the base for the vertical wind blade sculpture at the I-80 rest area between Casey and Adair and received a verbal estimate of $100,000. However, an official estimate cannot yet be acquired.
“Moving it would be expensive just to get it from TPI to where we want it and lift it up and set it down. Those are all things we’re working on a budget for. But we kind of want to make sure that we’re not doing something that the city council doesn’t want us to do. We want your support and your blessing going forward with this if possible at some point in time,” Showalter told the council Monday.
Councilwoman Evelyn George liked the idea of having the sculpture near Highway 14 but voiced concerns about whether the blade would obstruct visuals to businesses. From what Showalter gathered, he said it would “be better to have it (lifted) up so you can see underneath it, as opposed to having it on the ground” and blocking the view.
Councilman Mark Hallam enjoyed the concept of the project.
“I think what I especially like about it is the idea of people coming in from the south. They see something over on the east side with the ‘Welcome to Newton’ sculpture and there would be something on the west side with this giant wind blade,” Hallam said.