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Water tower cards available at Visit Brainerd

Cards and other water tower paraphernalia can be purchased at Visit Brainerd, 706 Laurel St.

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Blank cards featuring Brainerd's historic water tower, courtesy of Lakes Printing, are for sale at Visit Brainerd. If the limited supply sells out, more will likely be made. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

Centennial cards are the latest item for sale at Visit Brainerd to help restore Brainerd’s historic water tower.

A gift from Lakes Printing, the blue cards feature the white water tower above “Centennial 1920-2020.” The Historic Water Tower Preservation Committee agreed at its meeting Wednesday, March 17, to send the nine packs of 10 cards to be sold at Visit Brainerd in downtown Brainerd for $10 a pack. If they sell well, the group will look at paying to have more made.

While cribbage boards, keychains, T-shirts and a few mugs are still available for purchase, the committee brainstormed ideas for the next custom item to help garner funds for the tower, as tourist season is fast approaching.

Mayor Dave Badeaux, council liaison to the committee, suggested white travel mugs with outlines of the water tower’s crenellations. Group members liked the idea, and Badeaux said he could make some designs up to show what they would like for the committee to review at a future meeting.

Food truck event

Brainerd Community Action agreed to allow the water tower committee to do a food truck event during this year’s Fourth of July celebration downtown.

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Slated for July 2, Badeaux said they would invite food trucks from around the area to come set up shop downtown. The owners would pay a vendor fee, and attendees would pay a small fee to get into the event, with all of the proceeds going toward restoring the tower, which needs a new roof in the near future. Committee Chair Paul Skogen suggested partnering with the Brainerd Jaycees, who have an alcohol license, to see if they wanted to see beer at the event. Committee member Mary Koep said they would have to make sure the beer sales are separated enough from the food to ensure a family-friendly event.

The group also plans to have a booth at the Crow Wing County Fair in hopes of educating the public on the efforts and raising more funds.

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

A new roof

Designs for a new roof for the tower are nearly complete, after the group received a grant from the Minnesota Historical Society at the end of 2019 to fund the designs. Those designs should be finalized around July, Skogen said Wednesday, which will then allow the group to get estimates of how much the roof will cost.

The roof would save the tower from further water damage, which has occurred slowly since the 1970s, when the original roof was removed, as it was thought to be putting too much pressure on the tower’s bowl.

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 time agreed to give people two years to raise that funds. That two-year deadline came and went last October, but after a plea from Badeaux and the committee, the rest of the council agreed to let the group keep going and revisit the issue in June.

The council has budgeted $300,000 for the tower’s teardown in the event the money is not raised.

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Getting involved

More than $30,000 is in the bank for saving the tower, but a lot more will likely be needed for the roof.

Donations can be made online at brainerdwatertower.com by clicking the “Donate Now” button. A $2.95 service fee will apply to all e-check transactions and a 3.5% service fee will apply to all credit card transactions.

Cash or checks can be mailed to treasurer Mary Koep at 123 Laurel St., Brainerd, MN 56401. Checks should be made out to Brainerd Historic Water Tower Preservation Committee, which is now operating as a nonprofit.

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 April 21. 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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