Park fountain plans begin to take shape

City, Rotary officials discuss next moves

Elodie Reed

By Elodie Reed

Staff Writer

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The Facts

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ST. ALBANS CITY — As the conversation continues about Taylor Park’s fountain restoration, city and St. Albans Rotary Club officials are firming up design plans and emphasizing the need for robust fundraising.

A new development in both is a proposed Rotary Recognition Circle to honor donors.

This and other fountain topics were discussed at a meeting Tuesday night at Barlow Street School, where St. Albans City Director of Development and Planning Chip Sawyer spoke along with joint Parks Commission, Downtown Board, Design Committee and St. Albans Rotary Club members.

The Rotary Club has made these discussions possible through its generous offer to finance the project estimated to cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The meeting was advertised as the last before bids went out for renovation of all fountain components except the statues.

Last night, Sawyer began with showing residents the current plans for the revitalized fountain.

“There are some final decisions that have been made, but there are many that haven’t,” said Sawyer.

At the moment, “the ladies,” or the fountain statues, are in Alabama with Robinson Iron and are being recast in more durable aluminum – from their original zinc. Iron pieces are also being restored. The fountain pieces are to be painted – in December, the St. Albans City Council decided on a black, greenish color, called Antique Verde-Gris.

“We’re used to a green fountain, but that was a choice made by the city when it was painted 20 years ago,” said Sawyer. He added that the original fountain of 125 years ago was believed to have ladies painted with a grey color and the fountain painted black.

With the darker color of the past and a green patina gloss reminiscent of the fountain’s more recent present, the two should incorporate all of the fountain’s color history.

In addition to a new color, a new water system is planned for the fountain – one that recirculates the water through a pump vault placed underground near the fountain instead of using city water. An electrical panel as a power source for the pump is planned for the corner of Bank Street.

Filters will be used in a pump vault to keep the water clear, and Sawyer expects water will mist from several points on the fountain instead of “water spraying” and splashing around.

This will be possible, said consultant Bob White of ORW Landscape Architects and Planners, using pumps instead of relying on gravity and city water pressure.

“In this situation, we’ll be able to pinpoint and control the water effects,” said White. A wind anemometer is also planned to automatically shut off the fountain when wind gets high and threatens to splash water around, and then turn it back on when the wind dies down.

In addition to water, the fountain will have a set of LED lights that can change color.

“We’ll have a choice depending on what our mood is,” said Sawyer. The lights will be provided by Robinson Iron and will be placed around the fountain bowls.

As for the fountain pool itself, two options were presented last night.

“The engineers have recommended that we take this opportunity to demolish and rebuild this pool,” said Sawyer. This would include pouring new cement and resetting the granite rings around the pool.

Depending on the cost of renovating the pool, a cheaper alternative would be to patch up the current pool and reset the surrounding granite rings.

“If the alternative comes in too high,” said Sawyer, “we will patch the pool. It has held together really well.”

He added, “If we need to for budgetary reasons, we can get by for a long time.”

The plans for the area around the pool are to replace the concrete steps on the west side with a gradual, landscaped earthen slope. Walkways in the area would be replaced with asphalt to match others in the park.

A new development in the works is a Rotary Recognition circle, a proposed four-foot wide concrete walkway around the fountain with a granite ring on the outside, where names of donors who gave funds for the fountain would be sandblasted in the granite.

“Basically, it’s kind of like selling bricks with your names on them,” said Sawyer. “[But] we’re looking at some options other than bricks.”

The concrete walkway, for example, would be less expensive than bricks – which cost $17 each when inscribed with a name– and it would also better match the park better, which has no brick.

The Rotary Recognition circle is a new idea that still needs to be discussed, but Sawyer expects a bid for the fountain renovation to go out before the end of the month. This is the hope, anyway, as the fountain statues are supposed to be finished by the spring.

“Time is of the essence,” said Sawyer.

Costs

According to Sawyer, the total budget for the fountain’s restoration is between $285,000 and $340,000.

This includes $118,000 for the statue restoration, $80,000 for the restoration of the fountain pool and base, $30,000 for new infrastructure, $100,000 to $165,000 for site amenities like walkways, and then $40,000 to $92,000 for fundraising project costs.

“There is a total cost that we’re shooting for with this project to make it work,” he said .

St. Albans Rotary Club has committed to raising the funds for the fountain repair, and these will be in addition to thousands of dollars worth of work the city’s Department of Public Works plans to donate to the project.

At the meeting, Kate Manahan asked what St. Albans Rotary and St. Albans City want from residents for help.

“Everybody wants to help,” said Manahan.

The Rotary Recognition circle, said St. Albans Rotary leader Tom Gallagher, will need to be decided on before any fundraising efforts move forward. There is also a possibility of when the statues return in the spring, they will be used to raise funds as well.

In the meantime, donations can be made.

“Don’t worry, we’re definitely going to be asking for your help,” said Gallagher.

“We have a good team and Rotary stepped up,” said Sawyer. “Thinking about having the fountain back – that’s a pretty big deal.”

He added, “This is something the city – the community – has been chipping away at for far too long, and we’re going to come up with a final solution.”

Jeff Young of the city parks commission said, “I think this is going to be such an attraction. I don’t think people can imagine how nice this will be.”