Summer's over, but the Laurel Clark Memorial Fountain issue continues to be red hot. Will kids ever again splash in the lovely fountain built in 2001 as part of the Monument Square / Sam Johnson Parkway downtown redevelopment project?
Don't bet on it.
It was almost one year ago (Nov. 12, 2008) when the dumbest idea ever surfaced at City Hall: spend $30,000 to fence off the fountain. Seems the state (dumbest idea No. 2) is now requiring lifeguards, and chlorine -- things the city didn't budget for because they weren't required when the fountain was built.
There are many versions to this story. One is that the fountain never was designed for kids to splash in and enjoy. The opposite version, told to me yesterday by Alderman Greg Helding, is that the design materials shown to the city council before they approved building the fountain (with $150,000 in public donations and $50,000 in city money) clearly showed kids romping through the spray.
And as for the chlorine requirement: Helding said he wondered whether the city simply could pump water from Lake Michigan through the fountain, and then back into the lake. Answer: No way, José. Lake water's not "clean" enough, he was told. But, of course, it's clean enough for kids to swim in it...
It's easy to fault the city for all this, but that would be wrong. The city didn't build the fountain for chlorine or lifeguards because they weren't required at the time, according to Aquatica, the consultant the city hired to look into this in February: "At the time of design and construction, the fountain appears to have been compliant with all codes and standards the State of Wisconsin had in place." It was only in 2005 that state law changed, according to Aquatica's code compliance report issued in May 2009:
One element of the 2005 Comm 90 Water Attraction section dealt with “Interactive Play Attractions” to address play in which water is sprayed onto patrons, but standing water is not part of the activity. This section was created to address “splashpads,” by which in-deck or above ground features spray water onto patrons, but no standing water is provided in which patrons can drown. The 2005 Comm 90 code specifically addresses recirculated water systems, where water from the features is retained, filtered and chemically treated before returning to the spray deck area. During deliberations of the Comm 90 Advisory Code Council in 2003, it was determined that the State of Wisconsin should incorporate American National Standards Institute (ANSI) recommendations for recirculated interactive play attractions into the Water Attraction code section, including a filtration cycle in which the full volume of retained water is filtered and chemically treated within 30 minutes.Back in November 2008, with Parks and Recreation Director Donnie Snow estimating that it would cost $175,000 to re-fit the fountain to handle chlorine -- not to mention the need to find funding for those lifeguards -- then-Mayor Gary Becker floated the idea of creating new splash fountains (yes, he used the plural) at other locations in the city. Current Mayor John Dickert drank the same Kool-Aid and included $330,000, for one, in the preliminary budget he presented to the council last week.
Neither of those suggestions addresses the issues of lifeguards, and the paying for them, or offers as central a location as we already have, although the city, see below, now says the current location "in a traffic island" is unsafe. And the estimated cost of repairs to the fountain has almost doubled (see below). But that's just me, venting.
In any case, the city administration came up with answers to some of the aldermen's questions last night. Here they are:
Issues concerning closure
of Laurel Clark Memorial Fountain
for use as a splash pad
of Laurel Clark Memorial Fountain
for use as a splash pad
1.Do we have funds in the budget for operation and maintenance of the splash pad? How much? What is your estimate of the minimal cost of operation?Aquatica's report is HERE.
We do not have any funds specifically allocated for the operations and maintenance of the proposed splash pad as we do not know when it would be fully operational and anticipate the first year to be minimal cost. We would only anticipate shut-down and chemical costs to be incurred. However, we do have funds appropriated in 2010 professional services budget for the LCMF and the proposed splash pad maintenance needs.
2.Why are we closing the fountain for use as a splash pad?
The fountain was built and designed in 2000/2001 according to the State codes and standards at that time. There have been two major revisions since then. The fountain operation now has a litany of WDOC 2009 Comm 90 and WDOHS 2009 DHS 172 deficiencies that would require and estimated investment of at least $247,000 to make needed and necessary repairs caused by the long term effects of the mix of chemical off-gassing that corrodes the fountain pipes, modules and pumps. We also need to relocate the fountain chemicals used to disinfect/ adjust pH to an above ground location to eliminate the chemical off-gassing. The existing and persistent issues of maintenance (current annual maintenance cost of $80,000 not including utilities cost) are much more than anticipated.
Further, to bring the LCMF in compliance as a splash pad would significantly compromise it as a memorial fountain, e.g., the feature rate gpm would have to be reduced which would impact the visual significance of the fountain as the height of feature spray would have to be diminished. The diameter of the center spray feature fitting would have to be reduced as the vertical spray feature exceeds the maximum ½ opening size permitted by Comm 90.
Additionally, if you chose to do all of these repairs, the fact remains that the LCMF would still need a waiver for some of the new codes and is located in a traffic island which presents series safety risks to children that are oblivious to their surrounding conditions. We must ask ourselves is if a traffic island a safe place for such an attraction for our children to play and recreate? In our view it is not.
3. List of LCMF that we are not in compliance with State law, etc.
This year the City of Racine PRCS Department enlisted the services of Aquatica, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, to review the LCMF for state code compliance and estimated probable construction cost involved in repair or replacement of the existing fountain. In a report issued by Aquatica in May, 2009, a number of deficiencies in the existing fountain installation when compared to WDOC 2009 Comm 90 and WDOHS 2009 DHS 172 jurisdictional standards were cited. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
▪ Comm 90.13 deck requirements for slope and deck joint width and depth.
▪ Comm 90.14 circulation system requirements for turnover time, flow meters, filter and pump sizing, and maximum drain grate opening size
▪ Comm 90.16 requirements for cross connection control of make-up water
▪ Comm 90.17 requirements for interlocking of chemical controller with the recirculation pump
▪ Comm 90.19 requirements for toilet and sanitary facilities within 300 feet (paved walking distance)
▪ Comm 90.22 requirements for separation of recirculation and feature pump piping
▪ DHS 172.25 requirements for posted signage of permissible patron load
▪ DHS 172.26 requirements for a telephone with posted emergency numbers at the fountain
▪ DHS 172.27 requirement for a first aid kit at the fountain
▪ DHS 172.29 requirement for posted signage of fountain usage rules
▪ Plumbing code requirements for air break separation of backwash and underground tank overflow discharge to storm systems
▪ WDNR requirements for discharge of chemically treated water into storm systems that immediately discharge into open water
The estimated probable renovation construction cost for the above items, assuming that a Petition for Variance would be granted to allow continued use of existing toilet facilities located beyond 300 feet, would be in excess of $247,000.