Our Opinion: Save the water tower - again
There is no more iconic landmark in Brainerd than the historic water tower at South Sixth and Washington streets. It's the symbol of Brainerd, one that most residents and visitors alike envision when they think about the cornerstone city of the l...
There is no more iconic landmark in Brainerd than the historic water tower at South Sixth and Washington streets.
It's the symbol of Brainerd, one that most residents and visitors alike envision when they think about the cornerstone city of the lakes area.
And now the almost 100-year-old water tower is in need of some serious repairs that will cost some serious money, potentially to the tune of several million dollars.
Four years ago, pieces of material began falling from the 134-foot tower, and have continued to do so periodically since. The city, in the meantime, has been discussing what to do and how much to spend to fix the problems.
The water tower should be saved. Not only is it on the National Register of Historic Places, it's an integral part of the city's identity both past and present. Brainerd has a checkered history when it comes to saving its historic, unique buildings. Let's not repeat mistakes of the past.
Perhaps the cost estimates presented by Brainerd officials so far-which have the potential of reaching $2.4 million to $3 million-will come in lower than estimated. Perhaps another unthought of and cheaper fix can be found. Either way, it's probably going to take more than city-only funding to make it happen.
Council member Dave Badeaux said it best during the July 16 Brainerd City Council meeting: "... I believe we can save it. But, it's going to require a lot of effort from a lot of people to do it."
That effort is not unprecedented. In 1968, about eight years after the water tower was retired from service, the Brainerd City Council voted to have it torn down after the city's Water and Light Board declared it a public hazard. The estimated cost to save the tower was $100,000, plus a $2,000 yearly fee for maintenance.
Just as now, a grassroots effort grew around the cause at that time. Then Mayor George Bedard and a host of others incorporated as Paul Bunyan Tower Inc. and led a fund drive campaign, pledging $30,000. Burlington Northern added $5,000 and $34,500 was earmarked by the city's water and light department. In 1973, Brainerd residents approved $65,000 in bonds to save the water tower.
At present, Brainerd officials should be commended for their due diligence in looking at a number of options for saving the tower-from how it could be fixed to how to pay for the fix. Yes, there is sticker shock with the cost estimates the city has come up with so far, but we believe the residents, business owners and service organizations of Brainerd and surrounding cities would again support an effort to save the tower. Look at the revitalization of downtown Brainerd for proof that people want to see its history maintained while helping the city to succeed.
It's a structure worth saving. Brainerd wouldn't be Brainerd without its iconic water tower.
--- Brainerd Dispatch