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Committee sets sights on big fundraiser for tower
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A close up drone view of the Ceres water tower shows the affects of rust, which a group of tower enthusiasts is seeking to raise money to sandblast and paint. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

While a long ways from its half-million dollar goal, the committee which set out last year to preserve the Ceres water tower has collected about $3,000.

The group will be meeting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 17 at Alfonso's Mexican Restaurant to continue efforts to solicit sponsorships and plan a June 16 "Dinner Under the Tower" fundraiser.

"We are in the early stages of planning the fundraiser, but lots of ideas are floating around for that evening," said Brandy Meyer, who is leading the effort with Lee and Shelia Brandt. "Several members in the community are working on other items such as getting updated bids for cost of repairs, applying for the National Landmark Registry, and obtaining local, state and federal grants."

The group is continuing to sell shirts at events and Ceres water tower memorabilia at Addy's Boutique, which is in the shadow of the tower. Meyer said the group will also have a booth at the Ceres Street Faire and participate in the parade to draw attention to the effort.

The committee is set on achieving the lofty goal of raising an estimated $500,000 for restoration and painting of the iconic Ceres water tower. The city owns the tower but doesn't have the finances to do the job but leaders back the effort. Ceres Mayor Chris Vierra has pledged that the city will restore the tower if the group successfully raises enough money.

On Aug. 29, Meyer and the Brandts mustered up a group of about 30 residents to brainstorm ideas to raise the money to preserve the water tower, a fixture in downtown since 1934. A 2010 bid from Cornerstone Company obtained by the city pegged the project cost at $450,000. The cost includes cost analysis, testing plans, developing specs, structural repairs, repainting, project management and inspection. Those costs could be as high as $530,000 today, said City Manager Toby Wells. However, Meyer would like to see the city obtain three additional bids.

Meyer said it could take three to five years to raise the funds necessary for the city to order the repairs. Ideas for fundraising include obtaining grants, finding corporate sponsors, hosting annual fundraisers like golf tournaments and a vintage trailer show, a donation-driven time capsule, selling bricks with donors' names and a quest to have 2,500 residents pledge to donate $200 over a three-year period.

The Ceres Community Foundation has agreed to collect funds for the group which allows donors to write off their donations.

City Manager Toby Wells said there are no plans to raze the tower but time will eventually weaken it. The irony is that the cost of dismantling the tower - $20,000 - is how much the city spent to erect it in 1934.

The tank was last painted in early 2002 at a cost of $5,000 but not done properly. Wells noted that the next paint job - if there is one - will be expected to last 20 to 30 years depending on the quality of paint.

The tower was built by Chicago Bridge & Ironworks Company in an era when placing a 50,000 tank of water 90 to 118 feet in the sky could supply all the water pressure needed in a small Ceres. It is no longer used to hold water.

Anyone who wants to donate or offer assistance may email Meyer at or visit the Ceres Water Tower Facebook page. Checks may be made to the Ceres Community Foundation (with Water tower on the memo line), P.O. Box 1484, Ceres CA 95307.