MANITOWOC - Last fall, it was decided a Manitowoc landmark would stay put, thanks to a huge community outcry.
The city stepped in so the iconic Budweiser paintings on silos could stay.
This after the silos owner, Riverland Agriculture, tore down the banners and was set to sandblast the paintings in November.
"The city took a position awhile ago through our ordinances that they were non-conforming signs and Riverland did what they had to do and started taking them down," said Manitowoc Mayor Justin Nickels.
But Nickels quickly heard from community members who wanted to save the Anheuser-Busch beer cans.
"We had an outcry from the citizens. I received on my own well over 1,000 emails in a 48 hour period to keep the murals," Nickels said.
So he struck a deal.
"We met with Riverland to see what we could do to save them," said Nickels.
He told Riverland Agriculture the city would pay up to $25 thousand to cancel the work. The city council approved the payment earlier this week.
"The cancellation costs were loss of profit, they had vehicles they were sending up from Salt Lake City and different areas to power wash that needed to be returned," Nickels said.
After the murals were saved, the mayor encouraged residents to help raise money for the costs of cancellation - plus preservation and maintenance of the murals.
"I've never intended to use tax dollars to maintain, preserve or the cancellation costs for the beer bottles. The citizens wanted to keep it, and I believe through fundraising efforts they can," said Nickels.
But Nickels says the money's been trickling in slowly. Initially, only $2,500 was received from from Larry's Distributing, which sells Anheuser-Busch products.
This week, another $50 came in. But other than that, no other money has been donated by those who wanted to keep the murals in the city's downtown.
"I think the community has definitely been interested preserving it," said John Peroutka of Manitowoc.
Peroutka is among those who support keeping the murals.
He said there hasn't been much of an effort by the city to actually say, this is what we need.
"So I don't think that, I think it's a little premature at this point to say that money hasn't been raised, because I don't think the opportunity was there for anyone to really donate to the preservation project," said Peroutka.
The mayor said the city's working on that, and soon people will be able to donate online to a preservation fund set up by the city.
"Now that they actually see a concrete number that the city has paid up front and is expected to get paid back over time, I think now we can put some real dollars and cents into people's minds to help encourage them to contribute now," Nickels said.
But Peroutka is troubled by the requirement to raise money. He said community values worth fighting for should never require a ticket to get in, and added now because a thousand community voices spoke up, they now need to pay up.
"This is the cost of doing business. Citizens really wanted to save it," said Nickels.
The mayor says above and beyond the $25 thousand cancellation fee, the amount of money needed for preservation and maintenance is still unknown, and so far no work has been done on that end.
Meanwhile mural supporters have partnered with non-profit downtown organization Mainly Manitowoc to help preserve the iconic images.
"We are coordinating new murals in the downtown, and so this sort of fit with what we already have going on and are trying to pursue as well," Mainly Manitowoc's Executive Director Jamie Zastrow.
Zastrow said she's open to help facilitate fundraising for the group, but doesn't believe it will reach the level of meeting the city's $25 thousand cost.
"What that looks like going forward I really don't know, we haven't had much conversation until someone gets there and assesses the artwork and some costs are determined and things like that. So very preliminary discussions at this point," Zastrow said.
The mayor said people can also make donations by writing a check to the city of Manitowoc. Just write "Budweiser Murals" in the memo. Donations are tax-deductible.
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