Riverside officials have decided against applying for a federal grant to address the longstanding issue of painted brick flaking off the surface of the village’s historic water tower, but may address the issue as part of next year’s budget process.
Village trustees were slated to vote April 16 to authorize Public Works Director Edward Bailey to submit an application to the Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Program for a $750,000 grant to refurbish the water tower.
The item, however, was pulled from the village board meeting’s consent agenda. In a phone interview, Bailey told the Landmark that after further exploration, he determined that it wasn’t possible to meet the April 21 deadline for the application.
“This wasn’t going to work for this type of project,” said Bailey. “It was extraordinary in the complexity and bureaucracy required. There was a very long timeline. It’s really necessary to apply for the grant a year out at a minimum.”
Instead, Bailey said he’s likely to propose “some type of action on water tower repair during the upcoming budget process.”
That action is likely to be asking the village board to hire Koo LLC, the firm the village used in 2016 to identify the source of the brick-flaking problem, “to obtain an architectural proposal to guide the process.”
Bailey said he was also hopeful there might be other federal grants the village might apply for to help fund repairs.
When the village restored the tower in 2004, it received two federal grants totaling more than $300,000 for the work. One of those awards was a $275,000 Save America’s Treasures Grant from the National Park Service, a program still in existence.
Riverside has been searching for a source of funding to solve the brick-flaking problem for many years. In 2016, an architectural firm hired to analyze the problem estimated it would cost around $1 million to make the necessary repairs, a verdict that put the project on hold.
In the meantime, bits of buff colored-stained brick comprising the top half of the water tower continue to flake off the surface.
The problem was created when the water tower was comprehensively renovated and restored in 2004 at a cost of $1.37 million, according to the Koo LLC, the firm hired in 2016 to examine the issue.
The water tower was stripped of the white paint that covered the exterior at that time, revealing the original 1869 Victorian gothic lower half of the tower and the 1913 common brick upper half, which was rebuilt after a fire destroyed the structure.
During the 2004 restoration, the upper half of the tower was coated with a special mineral stain to complement the original cream brick of the lower half. But structural repairs made inside the tower, Koo LLC determined, resulted in the stained brick flaking from the surface.
Essentially, the repairs resulted in moisture being trapped in between metal flashing and the brick face inside the tower. A failure to seal in heat generated from the ground floor, which houses the recreation department, draws warm air up into the tower. That condensation on the metal trusses and steel flashing ends up in the masonry wall, Koo LLC determined.