Get a meal, help save the water tower.

Brainerd’s citizen committee working to save and restore the historic downtown water tower will host a fundraising dinner and silent auction from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Sept. 24 at the Brainerd American Legion.

The event will be set up outside the American Legion, with Pit Happens Catering providing pulled pork sandwiches with sides and chicken wings, each for a $20 donation. Silent auction items will be spread out inside the Legion for patrons to peruse — while distancing from one another — during the event. All bidding will take place online, so those interested can participate without being present.

While final event details are still in the works, committee members discussed plans made thus far during their meeting Wednesday, Aug. 19, at the Brainerd Fire Department. Discussion didn’t come without hesitation, though, as Committee Chair Mary Koep said she was skeptical about having the event during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I have to tell you, I am nervous about this,” she said. “I don’t think this virus is a joke. It’s a real thing, and I believe that. I personally don’t want to put anybody at risk if I can help it.”

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Committee member Jody Converse said people already go to stores and restaurants all the time, and committee member Ashley Storm said it is not a mandatory event that anyone is required to attend.

“If they don’t want to be there, they’re not going to be there,” Storm said. “We’re not forcing them to do anything.”

Koep said that wasn’t necessarily a good attitude to have.

“I’m raising a serious concern. There are people who are dying of this epidemic. There are children now coming down with it. This is not going away,” Koep said. “... We’re probably stuck in this terrible abyss for another year. I don’t personally want to be responsible for anyone getting this horrible thing.”

Koep said there needs to be a strict mask policy, social distancing, plenty of hand sanitizer and cleansing wipes and someone monitoring it all.

“I want to be certain that as a group, that we do everything in our power to keep people safe,” Koep said. “And if that means a little bit of inconvenience — you don’t all flock up to the food truck at one time just because you’re hungry. You stand back, you wait, you take your turn. That’s what needs to be done.”

Committee members assured her all those measures are doable and noted the statewide mask mandate already in effect.

Mayor Dave Badeaux, city council liaison to the committee, said they could hammer out the final details at the next meeting, which will happen the week before the event.

“We will definitely be able to manage this,” Badeaux said.

Advanced tickets may be available ahead of the event. More details will come at a later date.

Those interested in donating silent auction items or money for the event should contact Ashley Storm at 218-831-9717 or ashley.storm@live.com.

In other business Wednesday, the committee:

Heard 501(c)(3) paperwork was submitted to the state to turn the committee into a nonprofit.

Heard the first set of design plans to fix the tower’s roof were submitted to the Minnesota Historical Society for review. The committee received a grant from the historical society to fund specific plans to fix the tower, which the group hopes will open the door to larger grants down the road.

Discussed the upcoming 100th anniversary of the tower, which is Dec. 12, and began brainstorming ideas for a celebration, as well as a Christmastime event.

Heard from Badeaux the city council will discuss the tower in October, as that was designated as the sunset date two years ago for the committee to raise funds for the tower. Badeaux plans to present the group’s progress to council members in hopes they will let the committee continue working, especially in light of the pandemic.

Get involved

Direct donations to the save the water can be made via debit and credit card by clicking the “Donate Now” button at www.brainerdwatertower.com; and cash or checks can be sent to Brainerd Community Action, 321 S. Seventh St. Suite 105, Brainerd, MN, 56401. Checks should be made out to Brainerd Community Action, and all donations should include a note earmarking the funds for the water tower. A GoFundMe is available at https://bit.ly/2MLJWRV.

Check donations of $250 or more will be eligible for refunds in the event the tower cannot be saved. The rest of the donations would go to Brainerd Restoration.

Water tower paraphernalia — like buttons, keychains, t-shirts and cribbage boards — are available for purchase at Visit Brainerd on Laurel Street.

Those interested in joining the water committee can apply at https://bit.ly/2SwQ4Rt. The committee meets at 6 p.m. the third Wednesday of each month, with the next meeting scheduled for Sept. 16. While city hall is under construction, the group meets in the training room at the Brainerd Fire Department, 23 Laurel St. Meetings are open to the public.

A new roof needed

A new roof is the first step to saving the aging structure, which prompted city council discussion in 2018 after chunks of stucco fell.

With repairs estimated to be costly, the council agreed in October 2018 to allow citizens to form a committee to raise the funds. If the funds were not raised in two years, the council said the tower would be destroyed and earmarked $300,000 for the task.

The group has raised more than $20,000 so far, in addition to the historical society grant to fund plans for a new roof, which is needed to keep water out of the bowl and prevent deterioration. If all goes smoothly, the group expects work to begin on the roof in 2022, but more funds are still needed to make that happen.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.