Water tower in running for grant: Funding planned to pay for new synthetic roof

This grant is a matching grant, meaning the city of Brainerd would kick in matching funds — $162,043 — along with the money from the grant for a grand total of $324,086 to construct a new roof for

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Historic Brainerd water tower Wednesday, April 8, 2020, at sunset. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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Brainerd’s historic water tower is one step closer to getting a new roof.

Committee members working to preserve the tower are awaiting final approval from the Minnesota Historical Society for a grant worth $162,043 to go toward the tower’s new roof.

The Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grants Program — also known as Legacy Grants — provides financial support for projects focused on preserving Minnesota’s history and culture.

About 75 applicants throughout the state sought funding in the most recent grant cycle, with requests totaling about $8.9 million. Roughly $6.3 million worth of grants will be awarded. The historical society’s Historic Resources Advisory Committee approved the water tower grant application in early November, sending it on to the full historical society for final approval, which is expected to be given later this year.

This grant is a matching grant, meaning the city of Brainerd would kick in matching funds — $162,043 — along with the money from the grant for a grand total of $324,086 to construct a new roof for the tower. That amount is the estimated cost for a synthetic rubber roof and catch basin for drainage, restoration of the windows and steel staircase, tuckpointing the brick around the windows and relocating the flagpoles.


The Brainerd City Council agreed in July to kick in the matching funds if the grant were approved. Those funds would come out of the $300,000 the council budgeted back in 2018 for the tower’s destruction if it could not be restored. So far, the council has used $12,500 of that money as matching funds for a 2019 grant from the historical society to fund plans to design the new roof and other renovations needed.

The work to restore the tower started in 2018, after stucco fell from the 100-year-old structure and prompted council members to discuss whether it was possible to come up with the funds for a restoration project or if the tower should just be torn down. A committee — which has since become a nonprofit — has been working since that time to raise funds for the project.

Once the historical society officially approves the latest grant, the city can begin soliciting bids to put a roof on top. The goal with the roof is to stop further water damage, which is the root cause of the tower’s problems.

After a new roof is put on, an additional optional construction phase would be to remove and repair the stucco, which could cost in the ballpark of $600,000. The tower itself, however, is structurally sound.

Donating to the cause

The latest donation to the tower project came from the Brainerd Jaycees in the form of $1,000, which were part of the proceeds collected from this year’s StreetFest. Jaycees Mike O’Day and Melissa Willis presented the water tower committee with a large ceremonial check Wednesday, Nov. 17.

Members of the Brainerd Jaycees presented the city's water tower committee Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, with a large check to represent a $1,000 donation of funds raised during the annual StreetFest event earlier this year. Pictured are: Mike O'Day, Brainerd Jaycees, left; Dave Badeaux, water tower committee; Ashley Storm, water tower committee; Melissa Willis, Brainerd Jaycees; Mary Koep, water tower committee. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

Other donations can be made online via the city’s website at , with a 3.61% service fee applied to all donations. Commemorative water tower items — like Christmas tree ornaments, mugs, T-shirts and keychains — are available at Visit Brainerd on Laurel Street downtown.


There are two open spots on the water tower committee. Those interested in becoming a member can fill out an application at or pick up an application at city hall. The committee meets at 6 p.m. the third Wednesday of each month at city hall. Meetings are open to the public.

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

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

Related Topics: NONPROFITS
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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