The biggest smile between Minneapolis and Fargo will be even brighter after the people of Freeport, Minn., banded together to save their famous smiley-faced water tower.
In danger of being torn down earlier this year, the tower just off Interstate 94 was saved after the community raised $33,000 to renovate and refurbish it.
And on Thursday, workers got started on a repaint that will leave the familiar smile in place — but brighter and shinier.
“It’s a good feeling today with all the other stuff that’s going on in the world,” said Mayor Mike Eveslage. “Everything has turned out excellent.”
Last winter, the city was concerned that the tower might be structurally unsound. For more than 50 years, the smiley tower has greeted highway travelers passing by the Stearns County town of 670 residents about 100 miles northwest of the Twin Cities.
It no longer holds water; the city dedicated a new water tower in 2012. But concerns were raised after some rust was spotted on the old tower. The city commissioned an engineering study to see whether the tower would need repairs that could have cost as much as $150,000.
But the report came back with good news. The tower was structurally sound; it just needed to be sandblasted and recoated with special paint.
Freeport businesses and residents rallied to raise a majority of the $33,000 needed to do the job, with the city kicking in a portion.
“That’s our brand,” Eveslage said. “It’s on every banner, it’s on the city seal.”
The community, he said, “recognized the importance that it holds for our town.”
The newly painted tower should be finished by the end of next week if the good weather holds up.