After the custom-made Christmas ornaments sold out in a matter of weeks, Brainerd’s water tower committee decided to make another product: mugs.

Bright red mugs with a heart around the historic water tower are on sale for $15 at Visit Brainerd, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Those who want one might want to act quickly, as there were only 150 ordered. If all are sold, the committee will make just over $1,500.

That will be added to the $33,000 raised so far to cover repairs on the 100-year-old tower, which sorely needs a roof to stop further water damage. The roof is estimated to cost in the ballpark of $1.5 million to $1.6 million, but that is by no means a final price tag. The citizens group working to save the tower hopes to find out the cost later this year after plans for the new roof are finished. A grant from the Minnesota Historical Society, along with matching funds from the city, allowed the committee to hire a firm to create designs for the new roof. Without the designs, the cost would be unknown, likely inhibiting the group’s chance at receiving larger grants and donations for the project.

RELATED: Water tower ornaments turn a profit: Committee brainstorms more fundraising ideas

The plans are in progress and should be completed this summer, committee member Paul Skogen told the rest of the group during their meeting Wednesday, Jan. 20. So far, designs call for an ethylene propylene diene terpolymer — or EPDM — roof made of durable synthetic rubber with a 10-column base, five or six beams on top, a plywood deck and catch basin for drainage.

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Given the time frame of completion and the need to continue raising the funds, Skogen estimates the earliest construction on a roof could start is 2022.

Without the roof, the tower is in danger of destruction. When large chunks of stucco began falling from the tower’s bowl in 2018, the city council was faced with a decision — pay for the costly repairs or tear it down? Council members at the team agreed to give people two years to raise that funds. That two-year deadline came and went last October, but after a plea from the committee — including its council liaison Mayor Dave Badeaux — the rest of the council agreed to let the group keep going and revisit the issue in June.

Historic Brainerd water tower Wednesday, April 8, 2020, at sunset. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
Historic Brainerd water tower Wednesday, April 8, 2020, at sunset. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Fundraising

The committee continued brainstorming other fundraising ideas Wednesday, with possibilities including a community cookbook, a food truck event (similar to one that took place last September) and some sort of event in conjunction with the city of Brainerd’s sesquicentennial this year.

Badeaux said he was approached by members of the Crow Wing County Fair Board, who expressed interest in having a fundraising event for the water tower at the fairgrounds this year. The kind of event has not been determined, but one idea was a concert with local bands.

“They have a beer license as well, so there’s potential for beer sales,” Badeaux said of the fairgrounds. “It could be very, very lucrative, and if we could get the bands to donate their time, it could be a very good fundraiser for us. Plus, it’s good exposure.”

Whether a big concert or event will be able to happen this year, however, is still up in the air.

Nonprofit status

The last item on the committee’s agenda Wednesday was to elect officers as a final step to securing status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Badeaux said he has all the other paperwork filled out, and once that is sent in with the $600 filing fee, the group can begin operating as a nonprofit.

Officers are: Skogen, president; Ashley Storm, vice president; Jody Converse, secretary; and Mary Koep, treasurer.

By becoming a nonprofit, the group hopes to secure additional funding, as they have already heard from one person who wants to contribute a large donation but can only do so if the organization is a nonprofit.

 Melissa Yeager (left) and Brainerd Mayor Dave Badeaux take a selfie Thursday, Dec. 10, on the 100th anniversary of the Brainerd City Council finalizing the completion of construction of the historic water tower. To commemorate the event, Badeaux handed out 100 free cupcakes to people in downtown Brainerd. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
Melissa Yeager (left) and Brainerd Mayor Dave Badeaux take a selfie Thursday, Dec. 10, on the 100th anniversary of the Brainerd City Council finalizing the completion of construction of the historic water tower. To commemorate the event, Badeaux handed out 100 free cupcakes to people in downtown Brainerd. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Getting involved

Donations for the water tower, which needs extensive repairs or faces destruction, can be made online via the city’s website at ci.brainerd.mn.us or through GoFundMe at https://bit.ly/2MLJWRV. A 3.61% service fee will be applied to all donations through the city’s website. GoFundMe collects 2.9% of the funds raised and charges 30 cents per donation.

Cash and check donations can be dropped off at, or sent to Brainerd Community Action, 321 S. Seventh St., Suite 105, Brainerd, MN 56401. Checks can be made out to Brainerd Community Action, and all donations should include a note to earmark the funds to save the water tower.

If the committee does not ultimately raise enough money to save the tower, donations of $250 or more will be eligible for refunds. The rest of the funds raised will go to Brainerd Restoration.

Those interested in joining the water tower committee can fill out an application at https://bit.ly/2SwQ4Rt or pick up an application at city hall.

The committee meets at 6 p.m. the third Wednesday of each month in the second-floor conference room at city hall, with the next meeting Feb. 17. Meetings are open to the public.

For more information, visit brainerdwatertower.com or follow the Save the Historic Brainerd Water Tower page on Facebook.



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