Frankly, the Brazil water tower could use a facelift.
Lead-based, robin's-egg blue paint has begun to chip off the structure in large flakes, revealing the thick coating of rust that has accrued over the years. A message painted on the tank trumpets Brazil's status as a "Town of Progess" (note the missing "r"), a spelling mistake nobody has thought to correct in the 30-odd years since the structure's last paint job.
Mayor Tom Arthur has considered refurbishing the water tower for some time now, but the words of a student at Northview High School prompted him to push the project closer to the top of his agenda.
An essay question on Northview senior Nick Gebert's application to the Ball State College of Architecture and Planning asked where he would take a visitor to his hometown and, conversely, where he would avoid taking them.
Gebert wrote that he would be proud to show a visitor around Forest Park. As for the destination he would stay away from: "Anywhere they could see the water tower."
"In a town like we have, everything should be okay," Gebert said later. "(The water tower) is just horrible. It's the first thing you see when you come to town, so it should represent us."
Arthur learned of Gebert's essay answer through Nancy Ewing, Nick's mother and a teacher at Northview. He mentioned the issue in his State of the City address Tuesday, and said Thursday he has begun the process of applying for grants and low-interest loans to fund the renovation.
The project will require more than light labor and a few gallons of paint. The mayor estimated the cost of refurbishing the water tower at around $500,000, including some structural work.
"There's going to be a little more to it than just stripping the paint off," he said.
Arthur said the city hasn't settled on a design for the storage tank, but predicted it would be kept fairly simple.
"I haven't really thought about (the design)," he said. "We'll probably use a similar color, paint 'Town of Brazil' on it and pretty much call it done."
The mayor said he has entertained ideas to shape the storage tank like a clay pot and incorporate the flag of Brazil (South America), but is presently more concerned with securing the funding necessary to get the project off the ground.
"Right now we're concentrating on the financing of it," he said. "I'm afraid if we get too creative with it, it may drive up the cost significantly."