ST. ALBANS — The St. Albans Area Rotary Club voted Tuesday to pay all of the $250,000 required to restore the nearly 150-year-old Taylor Park fountain.
Speaking on behalf of the club’s board, President Tom Gallagher recommended the membership approve a plan to put $100,000 toward the repair after next year’s Rotary Home and Recreation Expo. The expo is the primary fundraiser for the Rotary Club.
Gallagher, speaking at the club’s annual Tuesday luncheon meeting, also recommended the club contribute an additional $10,000 each year toward paying for the renovations.
“To get the fountain back into condition will take leadership and money,” said Gallagher. “I believe Rotary has both.”
“It’s wonderful, wonderful news for the community,” said St. Albans City Mayor Liz Gamache. “I couldn’t be more appreciative.”
Under the proposal, the city would bond for the project and the Rotary Club would repay the bond. The exact size of the bond is still to be determined, but the cost is estimated to be $250,000 or less.
“Rotary has effectively adopted the fountain and the city couldn’t be more grateful,” said City Manager Dominic Cloud.
Once Rotary and the city have determined the final amount of the bond, the city would put the issue before voters on Town Meeting Day. “Rotary is really providing the leadership,” said Cloud. “The city is providing the conduit and the security.”
Rotary has taken on large projects in the past, including assisting with the purchase of additional land for the Hard’ack recreation area in St. Albans Town. That contribution was $75,000.
Gallagher assured Rotarians that Rotary has the financial wherewithal to take on this project and still support its annual giving to Martha’s Kitchen, the St. Albans Skating Association, and Little League.
Dave Kimel, chair of Rotary’s grants committee, said the committee is always on the lookout for projects large and small. “We have not had any other major projects come to us that would be stand alone projects,” he said, explaining that many groups come to Rotary for donations, but there are few opportunities for a project that would be led by Rotary.
“This is something we would lead,” said Gallagher.
In a conversation this morning, Kimel said that representatives of the local Rotary Club approached the city about taking the lead on the fountain renovations. “We really feel this is a project that will benefit the entire area,” said Kimel.
When Civil War era Gov. J. Gregory Smith donated the fountain, the city and Taylor Park were a center for activity in the county noted Kimel. “This is a place everybody went to do their business,” he said.
Kimel said his committee also hoped Rotary will be able to inspire others to become involved in the project, including donations of labor, equipment and materials.
The city has been speaking with Robinson Iron of Alabama about restoring the fountain. The company is one of the leading fountain companies in the U.S. and owns the original molds used to make the Taylor Park fountain. The company and the city have discussed recasting sections of the fountain in aluminum as part of the restoration.
Some Rotarians suggested Rotary ask the city to create a maintenance fund for the fountain to pay for ongoing maintenance and future repairs.
Rotary Club member Carrie Johnson reminded her fellow club members that in order to give money away, the club must first raise it, and urged them to get more involved in the Rotary Home and Recreation Expo.
The City Council was to meet in a special session at noon to discuss the fountain. The council last month decided against a special vote this month on a fountain bond issue, but left open the possibility of revisiting the issue as part of the budget process.