SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

February 12, 2014

Council to consider fountain renovation

SALEM — The City Council will consider tomorrow night whether the planned $246,930 renovation of the Town Pump Fountain should move forward.

City officials say it’s time the fountain at the corner of Essex and Washington streets got a makeover, but the best bid for the work came in about $97,000 higher than they’d hoped.

The city has found $163,000 in grants for the renovations, leaving it still about $84,000 short. Mayor Kim Driscoll has requested that city councilors fund the remaining amount from the city’s Capital Outlay Renovation and Repair account.

The fountain is at the site of the water supply Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote about in his short story “A Rill From the Town Pump.” It hasn’t been renovated since it was erected in 1976, and officials have long eyed altering or doing away with its stone-lined pool, which regularly attracts troublemakers who dump in soap to create bubbles.

“Currently, the fountain is in a state of disrepair due to the age of the equipment,” Driscoll wrote in a letter to the council. “In addition, when it is operational, it has been a source of aggravation and a near-constant battle to keep it clean and free of soap suds.”

The work would cut the size of the pool by half and install underwater lights so that they shine through the falling water, thereby enhancing the fountain’s nighttime appearance. The former part of the pool would be filled in with bricks and could eventually host tables or seats.

“It is our hope that the project will activate this space by providing al fresco seating in the warmer months where passers-by can sit and enjoy the refurbished water feature at a key intersection in the heart of the downtown,” Driscoll wrote.

The existing steps would be torn up and replaced with concrete blocks inscribed with text from “A Rill From the Town Pump.” Other work would focus on cleaning the site’s bronze plaques and installing a new filtration system.

The fountain’s restoration would constitute the final of three phases of improvements to the Essex Street pedestrian mall.

The city previously rejected a $343,100 bid for the fountain work.

Neil Dempsey can be reached at ndempsey@salemnews.com.

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