Physical plans for restoration are the next step in the Brainerd Water Tower Committee's attempt to save the historic downtown structure.

"What we need is an actual set of plans on how we're going to fix this thing," committee member Paul Skogen said during the group's meeting Wednesday, March 20.

Skogen and city council liaison Dave Badeaux said they met with the Minnesota Historical Society to discuss grant opportunities to help pay for the roughly $3 million of repairs the water tower needs to remain standing. But without specific plans for the tower's repairs, as Skogen noted, most state and federal organizations will not sign off on grants.

The historical society, however, may be willing to award the group a grant to pay for these designs, which would include the options City Engineer Paul Sandy laid out before the council in July. Those options ranged from $2.4-3 million.

Badeaux said the city engineer helped him contact a company that produces the kind of visual designs the committee is looking for, but has not gotten a cost estimate yet. When that estimate comes in-which Badeaux estimates to be within the next week-committee members agreed to ask the city council for one-third of the cost and apply for a historical society grant for the rest.

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"It sounded very positive," Skogen said of the historical society's willingness to award a grant for the designs.

Badeaux said he hopes to have everything in place to apply for the historical society's May grant. If the group is successful and is able to get designs made in time, the committee will then apply for the Minnesota Historical Society's larger grant in July.

In other business Wednesday, the committee:

Heard a GoFundMe page for the water tower is in the works. Marketing Manager Carissa Meyer said she is working on drafting the language for the page.

Heard about a water tower logo Meyer is working on to put on Love Your Melon hats. The hats would be sold not as a fundraiser for the tower, but as a marketing tool to get the word out about the tower.

Heard about a collaboration with the Brainerd School District to get students involved with the water tower project. Badeaux said he met with Superintendent Laine Larson and discussed a project likely to launch next fall, though he did not yet want to reveal the nature of the activity.

Heard from Doris Aasen, a Brainerd resident who built a water tower replica donation box for the committee to use to collect donations. The box will be used at events, like the Crow Wing County Fair, where the water tower committee will have a booth.

Aasen said she felt the water tower effort could use a donation box of sorts and then visited several home improvement stores to find the right materials and make the replica, which stands several feet tall.

Water tower background

Stucco falling last year from the historic water tower on the corner of Washington and South Sixth streets in downtown Brainerd prompted city officials to explore repair options for the iconic structure.

With similar issues in the past, the 100-year-old tower faces the possibility of demolition if the funds needed to repair it are not raised by October 2020.

The water tower committee's goal is to raise at least $1.6 million in the time allotted, as that, Badeaux said, would give the city a base to start and the opportunity to explore other options - like a referendum - to raise the rest of the funds.

How to get involved

Cash or check donations may be dropped off at or sent to Brainerd Community Action, 2321 S. Seventh St. Suite 105, Brainerd, MN, 56401. Checks can be made out to Brainerd Community Action and noting the donation is to save the water tower.

Donations can also be dropped off at city hall, as long as they are earmarked for the water tower, and will soon be accepted via credit card through the city's website.

If enough money is not raised in the time allotted to save the tower, those who donate $250 or more will be eligible for refunds. Other donations will go to Brainerd Restoration.

Anyone with fundraising ideas can contact the water tower committee through Brainerd City Hall.

The water tower committee meets at 6 p.m. the third Wednesday of every month at city hall, with the next scheduled April 17.

Meetings are open to the public and allow time for public comment.