Those thinking of donating funds to save Brainerd's historic water tower can rest assured their donations will go toward saving something historic in Brainerd even if the tower can't be saved.
In the seemingly unpopular event $1.6 million is not raised before October 2020 and the water tower's fate falls to destruction, funds donated to the effort will go to Brainerd Restoration and be earmarked to save or restore historic sites in the city.
"Part of our purpose was to save something historical in our city," committee member and marketing manager Carissa Meyer said during a meeting Wednesday, Jan. 16. "And if that fails, we're just going to save something else."
The council-appointed committee is made up of citizens who expressed an interest in keeping Brainerd's historic water tower standing after learning of needed costly repairs.
All committee members agreed to giving the money to Brainerd Restoration except for committee chair Mary Koep, who voted against the motion, instead wanting to give donors the opportunity to get their money back if the tower can't be saved.
"If it were me, and I gave money to a specific cause, and that cause failed for whatever reason, I would want the money back," Koep said. "I would not want someone else deciding what was going to be done with the money I had given."
Other committee members noted it would be difficult-especially for Brainerd Community Action, the committee's fiduciary agent-to figure out where each donation came from and how to get it back to the right person.
Donations for the water tower can be given to Brainerd Community Action.
The group now has funds to begin marketing its goals.
Meyer showed the group a $2,000 check from the Brainerd Jaycees earmarked for marketing and development efforts. She also said she has a request in to the Sertoma Club in Brainerd and a presentation scheduled with the Kiwanis Club in an effort to secure more marketing funds.
As another potential marketing strategy, the committee discussed lighting up the tower for holidays and special events and as a way to show community togetherness in the event of a tragedy or something of the like.
Dave Badeaux, city council liaison to the committee, said he has spoken with a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 242, who expressed interest in the project. The union is set to meet at the end of the January, when Badeaux said the worker he spoke with was going to bring up the idea.
"The idea being to create it as more of a symbol than it already is," Badeaux said of the tower. "It is a symbol for our city, but it really is a symbol for the region."
Committee member Jody Converse noted how Duluth's Enger water tower was recently lit up in blue after a police officer was injured and his K-9 partner was killed while on duty last weekend.
"That would spark interest," Converse said of lighting up Brainerd's tower. "People could see, 'Oh wow, look at that.'"
"I'm excited to see the possibilities," committee member Miles Lowe said, supporting the idea.
The group is also working on a plan to bring before legislators in hopes of securing state and/or federal funding for the tower, which needs extensive repairs potentially costing up to $3 million. The city council gave the water tower committee two years from its first meeting in October to raise funds, otherwise, the tower will likely be destroyed for the much lower cost of $150,000. Badeaux told the committee he wants to see at least $1.6 million raised in those two years, as that amount would give the city options, like a referendum, to move forward.
The Save the Water Tower Committee meets at 6 p.m. the third Wednesday of each month at Brainerd City Hall. The next meeting is Feb. 20.