Water tower committee to seek marketing funds

Marketing money could be in the near future for Brainerd's Save the Water Tower Committee. Carissa Meyer, the marketing manager for the citizen-run group, told members Wednesday, Dec. 19, about encouragement to apply for a donation from the Brain...

Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
A ground-level shot of the Brainerd historic water tower. Gaps in the eroded stucco exterior of the structure can been seen at the top-center portion of the bowl. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch file photo

Marketing money could be in the near future for Brainerd's Save the Water Tower Committee.

Carissa Meyer, the marketing manager for the citizen-run group, told members Wednesday, Dec. 19, about encouragement to apply for a donation from the Brainerd Jaycees.

The committee agreed to have Meyer submit an application to the Jaycees for $5,000 for marketing and development funds. The money would go toward getting the group's message out to the public and help the committee stay transparent by not having to use water tower donations for marketing efforts instead of tower restoration.

Because the Jaycees would likely vote on donation applications at the end of January, the committee agreed to let Meyer "put out feelers" to see if any other community groups might be willing to help with marketing efforts.



With the base amount of money the committee needs to raise in the next two years set at $1.6 million, grant proposals are likely in the group's future.

Members agreed to look in the community for anyone skilled in grant-writing who might be willing to help and for someone willing to donate time to look into what kinds of grants are available for the water tower efforts.

One grant opportunity the group knows it wants to pursue is requesting money from the Minnesota Legislature. As the next legislative session ends in May, committee chair Mary Koep assigned Meyer and council liaison Dave Badeaux to put together a proposal for legislative funds. The committee will review the proposal at its January meeting.

Light up the tower

In an effort to make the historic downtown water tower even more of community icon than it already is, Badeaux mentioned lighting up the tower for holidays in special events.

He said he spoke with a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 242 who expressed interest in the project. The union member, Badeaux said, would bring the idea up at the next union meeting.

"We can show celebrations through the lighting," Badeaux said. "But we can also show some kind of condolence with the communities around us. Say there is some kind of tragedy in a neighboring community, we can light the tower in that community's colors and show condolence and use it as something that's greater than just a structure."

Meyer jumped on the idea as a marketing strategy, too.


"If we could get that, it would open the door for more people to want to help save it," she said.

"They see it as just a plain tower, but now we've changed the image of it where it's a celebration."

Koep, however, wasn't sold.

"I want it to stand in its own glory," she said, noting the tower can speak for itself the way it is.

"But if we continue with that line of thinking," Badeaux said, "it may not stand at all."

Other committee members agreed to explore the idea more, and Badeaux said he would bring renderings of what the tower might look like lit up to the next committee meeting to show that it won't just be a flashy gimmick.

"We have a structure that you can see from any distance coming from any direction into our city, and it would be a phenomenal idea," Badeaux said.

Meyer noted the tower would not be lit up permanently and would look as it normally does a majority of the time.


Taking donations

Committee members agreed they need to start spreading the word out about taking donations. Anyone who wants to donate to the cause can contact the committee via city hall.

The water tower committee's next public meeting is 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16, at city hall.


Constructed between 1919-22, the historic water tower on the corner of South Sixth and Washington streets has become somewhat of an icon in the Brainerd lakes community. In the recent months, however, falling stucco prompted the Brainerd City Council to explore the tower's future. Council members learned the structure is in need of extensive repairs that could come with up to a $3 million price tag. The price to tear down the tower is estimated at $150,000.

After calls from several community members to save the water tower, the council gave those backing the project two years to raise the necessary funds. The community has until October 2020.

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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