BY SUE WEBBER
A sentimental landmark in Osseo isn’t on the chopping block – yet.
After a public hearing Oct. 14 to gain citizen input on the North Water Tower, the Osseo City Council voted to ask the staff to research money available to preserve the tower as a historical site and come back with a report at the Council’s Nov. 11 meeting.
In a written report to the Council on the tower, City Administrator Douglas Reeder said the tower “is no longer used as part of the water system and is in need of some repairs which could cost as much as $300,000 in the near future in order to preserve it in a safe manner.”
The tank also would require repainting every 15-25 years, Reeder said.
“Therefore, the 100-year cost of retaining the water tower could exceed $1 million,” Reeder said.
The cost of removing the tank is estimated at $30,000, he said.
However, Reeder also noted that some residents want the tower preserved and possibly put on the National Register of Historic Places.
Sean Mulhurn, a consultant with KLM Engineering, acknowledged that the tower is an important issue, though it still represents a large expense to repair.
“It has no benefit to the city other than emotional,” Mulhurn said. “The cost is outrageous for a water tower that is not functioning.”
He said pins on the tower need replacement immediately to insure the structure’s integrity, if the tower is to be kept.
Other repairs will be required if the tower is not demolished within three to five years, he said.
Five residents spoke at the public hearing.
“The water tower should simply be taken down,” resident Douglas Lee said. “Some people feel there is a historical attachment, and Osseo has positioned itself with a historical flavor. But we do have to continue modernizing the city. The cheapest option is to cut it down.”
Kathleen Gette said she has spearheaded a campaign to save the tower, including a Facebook page she started in June that currently has 1,164 “likes.”
Gette maintained that grant money is available to renovate, maintain and preserve the tower, particularly if it should be listed on the National Register.
“I do love that tower, and a lot of people feel the same way I do,” Gette said.
Resident Lauren Bowe agreed that the tower should be saved. “We are demolishing a lot of things; it’s important to keep what people like,” she said.
Harold Johnson, who said he has been a resident and/or business owner in Osseo for 55 years, said, “The cost to keep it is excessive. Putting it on the National Register is an ongoing cost to maintain it forever. If the tower was totally unique, it might be worth considering. But it’s nothing unique at all. Removal is best for everyone.”
Properties listed on the National Register don’t have contracts that provide maintenance, Johnson said.
“This is not a cost that should be added to our taxpayers,” he said.
City Attorney Loren Magsam suggested that the council take time to consider available options and digest information received about the tower.
After the public hearing was closed, Councilmember Rick Weber said, “Facebook is opinion-based, not fact-based. With a $2 million budget, we don’t have the resources, personnel, time and money to commit [to preserving the tower]. We have worked so hard to keep this small budget so tight.”
Weber said he has talked to “at least 100 people,” and after they heard the facts they all said the tower should be torn down.
Councilmember Bonnie Heinen first moved to solicit bids to remove the tower.
However, Weber said, “Why go this direction this quickly when our legal counsel says we should think about it?”
Heinen then amended her motion to ask that the city research money that might be available “on the historical side.”
“This isn’t an easy process for the city,” Heinen said. “The city is still involved, and it’s not a slam dunk to get a grant to keep the structure.”