Fund drive to preserve water tower still lagging

By KATHY KORENGEL

Herald Writer

MARYSVILLE — Margaret Austin is afraid her perfect view will disappear if more people don’t step up to the plate to preserve the jewel of her view: the Marysville Water Tower.

"I can see it from my house," said Austin, one of the leaders of an effort to save the 1921-vintage structure from demolition. "It’s part of my view.

"It’s one of the few pieces of history we (still) have here, as far as buildings," she said.

Although city officials have set no deadline for funds needed to be raised to spare the tower from demolition, Austin fears time is running out.

She and others are sponsoring a rally Saturday in Comeford Park, where the tower stands, to further their goal of saving the sky-blue beacon that can be seen from I-5.

The day’s activities will include a car show, a pet show, a motorcycle exhibit, entertainment, and food and drinks. Sue Elliott, an artist whose watercolor painting of the tower has been made into a print to raise funds for its renovation, will sign the prints at the event.

Activities run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the park at the corner of State Avenue and Sixth Street.

Last spring, a consulting firm estimated the cost of upgrading the tower to state and federal safety and seismic standards at $113,000. The estimated cost of demolishing the structure, which hasn’t functioned as a water tower since the 1970s, is $55,000.

Last fall, the city council agreed to put $55,000 toward restoring the tower rather than destroying it, if others could raise the additional $58,000 needed to upgrade the landmark. Members of the Marysville Historical Society, including Austin, took up the call.

Since then, the group, which consists of a core of about five people, has raised $12,000. The funds came from a variety of activities, from letter writing campaigns to selling Elliott’s prints to private donations.

Austin said she is worried that the city may want to reach a resolution soon about the fate of the tower. Mayor David Weiser said the city council hasn’t set a deadline, but it will probably take another look at the issue as it prepares the 2001 budget.

A preliminary budget will be available to the public Nov. 2, Weiser said.

He also said that about $15,000 of the estimated costs of the tower renovation would go toward electrical upgrades that would benefit the parks department, so that amount, beyond the $55,000 the council has pledged to the project, could come from the general fund. The historical society’s contribution would then be reduced correspondingly.

Weiser said the council heard comments in previous hearings from people who didn’t want general tax revenue to be spent on the tower. The council also heard from people who would like to see the tower saved, he said.

He said that during the budget process council members will look at what the community has raised to save the water tower, and "if we need to continue to raise funds, and if we want to save the water tower," Weiser said.

Austin said saving the structure, emblazoned with the name of the city, is important for many reasons.

"I can’t tell you how many people have used it as a meeting place or a landmark (when giving directions)," Austin said. "At one time, climbing it was part of an initiation when you moved to Marysville."

Historical society president Steve Edin, who has lived in Marysville since 1978, said he grew up with the tower.

"I played in that park when I was a kid," Edin said.

If the tower were to be demolished, he said, "it would be like part of my childhood, my past was being torn away."

Those who can’t make the rally can support the project in other ways. Posters are on sale around town for $10.

Tax-deductible donations can be made to: The Marysville Historical Society, Save The Tower, P.O. Box 41, Marysville, WA 98270.

For more information, call Edin at 360-651-5028 or visit the Web site www.savethetower.org.

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