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City of Brainerd solicits bids for new water tower roof

A synthetic rubber roof will help to prevent further water intrusion in the century-old structure.

Brainerd Historic Water Tower Sunset3.jpg
Historic Brainerd water tower Wednesday, April 8, 2020, at sunset. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — A new roof is within reach for Brainerd’s historic water tower.

Brainerd City Council members voted Monday, March 7, to solicit bids for updates to the tower, including a synthetic rubber roof.

The roof will serve to protect the tower from further water intrusion, which would likely contribute to structural damage in the future. As it stands now, the 100-year-old tower in downtown Brainerd is structurally sound.

The city’s nonprofit water tower committee received a grant from the Minnesota Historical Society late last year in the amount of $162,043. The city council agreed last summer to kick in matching funds for the grant, using some of the $300,000 originally set aside in 2018 for the tower’s potential destruction if it could not be saved after falling stucco caused concern.

The amount of the grant is based on estimates from the engineering firm LHB, which provided the city with designs for the new roof, funded by a smaller historical society grant in 2019.

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The $324,086 estimate includes not just a synthetic rubber roof but also a catch basin for drainage, restoration of the windows and steel staircase, tuckpointing the brick around the windows and relocating the flagpoles.

Citizens formed a committee aimed at raising funds to save and restore the tower in October 2018.

“It’s been three years that we’ve been working on that, and it feels like it’s a giant leap in that process in that the funding is available, the design work is done, and now we get to actually find out how it’s going to shape up and what the time frame is,” Brainerd Mayor Dave Badeaux, council liaison to the water tower committee, told the Dispatch Monday night.

The project timeline will depend on bids, which are due April 8.

Council member Mike O’Day asked if there will be any visible changes to the outside of the tower, which will not be the case, City Engineer and Public Works Director Paul Sandy said Monday. The roof will not be visible from ground level on the outside of the tower, and because the tower is on the National Register of Historic Places, the city is not allowed to change the look of the tower. But depending on fundraising efforts, after the roof is in place, the committee will move on to Phase 2 of its restoration plan, which includes repairing the stucco on the outside of the tower. That project is estimated at about $600,000 and is optional in that the tower would still be sound if that work were not done.

Donating to the cause

Donations to the tower can be made online via the city’s website at ci.brainerd.mn.us , with a 3.61% service fee applied to all donations. The water tower committee is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, so all donations are tax-deductible.

Water tower memorabilia is on sale at Visit Brainerd in downtown Brainerd, with all proceeds benefiting the tower’s restoration.

There are open spots on the water tower committee. Those interested in becoming a member 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 at city hall, with the next meeting March 16. Meetings are open to the public.

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

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

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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