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Roof to be constructed on water tower this summer

Hy-Tec Construction will complete the work for $385,000.

Close up of the top bowl and the walkway around the exterior of the historic Brainerd water tower
Brainerd's historic water tower will be covered with a new roof this summer, after City Council members approved a bid for the project Monday, April 18, 2022.
Dispatch file photo
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BRAINERD — Brainerd’s historic water tower is getting a new roof, but it’s more costly than expected.

The Brainerd City Council approved a bid from Hy-Tec Construction Monday, April 18, to put a synthetic rubber roof, roof hatch, new downspouts and revamped lighting on the tower for $385,000.

While originally planning to also include renovations to the windows and stairs with the first phase of work, the cost came in higher than original estimates, which came from consulting firm LHB about two years ago.

The committee working to preserve the tower secured a grant from the Minnesota Historical Society last year for $324,086 — the estimated cost for the roof, windows, stairs and lighting. Half of that grant was matching funds from the city.

But a bid from Hy-Tec Construction — the only firm that submitted a bid for the project — came in at $385,000 for the roof and lighting and $168,000 for the stairs and windows.

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With the roof as the most immediate need to prevent further damage from water intrusion in the tower’s bowl, committee members opted to move forward with that portion of the project. The difference of $60,914 between the grant amount and the bid price will be covered with money the committee secured through community fundraising. As of last month, the committee had just over $87,000 in the bank.

The city’s matching funds for the grant came from the $300,000 council members set aside in 2018 for the tower’s demolition if it could not be saved. To date, $174,853 of that money has been used for matching funds for historical society grants. With money still available from that sum, Council President Kelly Bevans asked Monday why the stairs and windows can’t be done at the same time as the roof, as the stairs, he said, are disastrous.

Paul Skogen, chair of the water tower committee, said he would rather keep some of the city’s money in reserve for matching grants in the future.

Once the roof is on, the committee plans to conduct a stucco study to determine the exact cause of the stucco chunks that have fallen from the tower and figure out how much it will cost to repair. The study is estimated to cost $45,000. Skogen hopes to apply for more historical society grants for the stucco study and repairs, which will likely require matching funds from the city.

Depending on the cost, Skogen said he hopes to address the stairs and windows along with the stucco, but for now those are non-essential parts of the tower, whereas the roof and stucco — which could deteriorate further and cause harm when falling — are bigger priorities.

010121.N.BD.Top10. 9 Water Tower Deadline extension 2.jpg
Brainerd's Historic Water Tower is lit up in blue Saturday, May 23, 2020, to honor the Brainerd class of 2020. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Mayor Dave Badeaux, who serves as council liaison to the tower committee, said the group is trying to be as responsible as possible with the funds raised from the community and wants to be actively fixing the tower with those funds.

At the end of Monday’s meeting, council member Dave Pritschet praised the work done to get this far.

“It is amazing looking where we were when we first discussed the historic water tower, to actually be putting a roof on that. Congratulations, citizens of Brainerd and everybody that stepped up — mayor, the committee … that’s incredible,” Pritschet said. “I mean, when you talk to most people when we started having chunks fall off of it, they thought it was pretty much on the clock until it was gone, make the big flashlight out of it, lay it down, that sort of thing. So it’s great, it’s awesome.”

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The roof is expected to be placed this summer.

Donating to the cause

Donations to the tower can be made online via the “payments” tab on the city’s website at ci.brainerd.mn.us , with a $2.95 service fee applied to all electronic check transactions and a 3.5% service fee applied to all credit card transactions. 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 is an open seat on the water tower committee. Those interested in becoming a member can fill out an application at 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 April 20. 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 .

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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