Wednesday, June 16, 2010

One City Market Fountain Back On; One Still Dry

City workers and the fountain they returned to function today. One down, one to go.^

UPDATE, 7 p.m.

As my mama used to frequently remind me, "It never hurts to ask." That has some broad applications which John Garland of Spectrum Design seems to remember better than I do.

John's not a guy who sees things he doesn't like and quietly passes without response. Roanoke recently finished putting the skin back on its downtown parking garage (the absurdity and expense of which we won't get into here), but hadn't turned on the historic fountain that sits on a plaza beside it. Merchants wanted to know why. "The budget," they were told. That's something of a catch-all phrase these days:
  • "Why hasn't the garbage been picked up?" The budget.
  • "Why can't I get a dog catcher to shut up that barking mutt two doors down?" The budget.
  • "Why can't you boys get a building inspector down here in a timely fashion?" The budget.
  • "Why did my son flunk English?" The budget.
Overdone, yes, but what a great fallback.

John doesn't buy that. He sure didn't buy it in the case of the fountains in Century Plaza (in front of his office) and so he wrote a letter to Steven Buschor, director of parks and recreation (and, from what my wife--who works with him--tells me, a good guy). Here's some of the letter:

"I understand that not operating the downtown fountains is one of the City's cost savings measures. I know you probably have limited control over such decisions, but it would seem to be a rather minor expense as compared to the loss; particularly when compared to activities that continue unaltered.

"The vitality of downtown, and thus the economic development of downtown is enhanced with amenities such as the fountains. Between local businesses, the Chamber of Commerce, DRI, Center in the Square and the City I would think that we could come up with a plan to run the fountains.

"The electricity and water costs would have to be very minor. The only remaining items are keeping them clean and the City crew is down in the park beside our office a couple of times a week. I run two fountains at a City Apartment Building that I own and the benefit this has in keeping good quality tenants far outweighs the cost of keeping up with the fountains.

"I would be happy to remove the plywood, clean the fountains and even get them started if I had the key to the control area and I could probably get donors for the power and water. What do you think?"

This was yesterday. I walked by the Market Square fountain at lunch today and it was on. The workmen who had just turned it on said City Manager Chris Morrill had passed a few minutes earlier and said he liked what he saw."

The fountain in Century remains quiet, though. We'll see if John's letter gets the reception it should.

Steven Bushcor gave these figures on the cost of running the city's fountains:

"Allow me to share with everyone what I have found regarding the numerous fountains within our city and their operational costs (July - Labor Day). Sister City Fountain: water cost $978.66, electric cost $600 = $1,578.66 (three months); Century Plaza Fountain: water cost $195, electric cost $195 = $390 (three months); Railwalk Fountain: No billing use history found for water or electricity Entranceway Fountain: water cost $6,274, electricity cost $1,400= $7,674 (four months)."

To which John responds: "The only way that water could cost $1,000 shown for Sister City Fountain (assuming it is the one by my office) is if there is a continuous leak. Evaporation would not account for that much water use. Using the costs for Century Plaza (assuming that is the one at my office) of $390 would be easily fundable by local enterprises."

1 comment:

  1. From what I understand the market square fountain was only on to test the operation. It is now off and has been drained. With half the operational cost being water it is tax payer money down the drain.