Water tower restoration project to receive COVID-19 relief funds

The Brainerd City Council agreed to commit $200,000 to window and stair repairs on the tower.

Water tower roof
Construction began in October 2022 to put a roof on Brainerd's historic water tower.
Contributed / City of Brainerd
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BRAINERD — A chunk of Brainerd’s COVID-19 relief funds will go to restoring the city’s historic water tower.

Brainerd City Council members agreed Monday, Dec. 5, to allocate $200,000 of its money from the American Rescue Plan Act to fix the windows and stairs on the 100-year-old structure.

Paul Skogen, chair of the water tower preservation committee, made the request at Monday night’s Personnel and Finance Committee meeting after updating members on the tower’s roof construction.

“We have finished the roof, so the water tower is not going anywhere,” Skogen said. “The water tower is structurally sound from the base on up.”

The new roof on top of the tower is designed to combat the decades of water intrusion in the bowl and prevent any further damage. While the roof is on, the project is not quite complete, as Skogen said grouting still needs to happen on the columns at the base of the tower, along with minor clean up to the inside and some paint touch up on Breen & Person Law Office, which sustained minor damage during the construction.


Coming in at about $385,000 the roof was part of the first phase of restoration efforts on the tower. Because the cost was higher than expected , the other part of phase 1 — fixing up the stairs and windows — had to be postponed. Those items are estimated to cost about $200,000, for which Skogen and the committee requested the relief funds from the city.

“The stairs and the windows are over 100 years old, and they are deteriorating, and if you were in the tower and you looked at all the stuff, you can see rust on the stairs. You can see rain leaking through the windows, and they are in need of repair,” Skogen said.

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Repairs on the 12 windows are budgeted at $115,000, with another $85,000 estimated for the repairs and painting on the stairs inside the tower.When asked about the high cost for the windows, Skogen said the repairs must follow specific guidelines because the tower is on the National Registry of Historic Places, and those specifications come with an added cost. Another portion of the money will go toward putting up scaffolding inside the tower to complete the window work. Skogen said the scaffolding alone costs about $35,000.

Council member Kevin Stunek immediately voiced his support for spending COVID-19 relief funds on the project.

“I’ve supported the water tower from day 1. The roof is fixed. You just made the comment it’s not going anywhere,” he said to Skogen, “and I’d hate to leave a project unfinished, so I would support this totally.”

The council unanimously approved the funds Monday, with Jamie Bieser absent. Skogen said the tower committee can now work to bid the project, and he hopes to have the work completed by fall 2023.

“We do appreciate the support,” Skogen said. “The tower is not going anywhere. It is a symbol of Brainerd. People have supported us big time. So nice to see that the tower is going to be there forever.”

The next phase of work includes a study to determine what kinds of repairs need to be done on the tower’s exterior stucco , which has fallen off in chunks in recent years.


COVID-19 relief funds

The city of Brainerd received $1,468,097.58 in Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recover Funds as part of the American Rescue Plan Act.

The latest allocation of $200,000 to the tower leaves the city with $138,097.58. The council previously allocated $80,000 to Main Street revitalization grants , $575,000 to parks projects, $300,000 to capital equipment expenses in 2023, $140,000 to a new heating and cooling system at the Police Department and $35,000 for a feasibility study for a pedestrian bridge over Highway 210/Washington Street.The city must obligate the funds by the end of 2024 and use them by the end of 2026.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .

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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