Well, that didn't take long.
Word Wednesday about the potential closing of Downtown's summer kid magnet, the Laurel Clark memorial fountain, has brought a response from Mayor Gary Becker. Becker wants to see more fountains for kids, not fewer -- but he'd rather build new ones at existing community centers than upgrade the one kids now enjoy at the east end of Sam Johnson Parkway. His plan could save on personnel costs, if fountain attendants were drawn from existing center employees, he said.
Donnie Snow, Racine's Parks and Recreation Director, estimated this week it might cost $175,000 to rehab the existing fountain for kids' continued use, plus the cost of attendants, chemicals and water.
Meanwhile, the husband of astronaut Laurel Clark, who spent her high school years in Racine, said he was disappointed to hear that the fountain might be enclosed by a fence to keep kids out. Jonathan Clark is quoted in today's Journal Times saying, "To not allow it to be an interactive fountain is really unfortunate. I think (Laurel) would have felt the same way ... She was very much a water person and valued kids’ activities as a part of learning."
The only problem with Becker's plan is cost: He estimates the bill for two new kids' fountains at $400,000. But the fountain constructed in 2001 -- almost two years before the space shuttle exploded upon re-entry -- cost $700,000 to build.
And the only reason Snow brought the matter before the City Council this week was budgetary -- his fears that maintaining the fountain might force layoffs elsewhere as chlorine damaged the fountain's innards requiring continued repairs, and the rising cost of chemicals and water -- not to mention salaries for the newly-required attendants. Nowhere in Snow's memorandum, however, was a figure as large as $400,000...