By Neil H. Dempsey
---- — SALEM — The city is pressing ahead with plans to renovate the Town Pump Fountain at the corner of Essex and Washington streets, but continues to face one obstacle: money.
Bidding on the project ended Thursday, and both of the bids submitted were significantly higher than city officials had hoped.
The fountain was installed in 1976 at the site of the town water supply that Nathaniel Hawthorne once wrote about in his short story, “A Rill From the Town Pump.” It hasn’t been renovated since, and for years, officials have discussed eliminating or altering its stone-lined pool, a frequent target for pranksters who dump in soap to create bubbles.
R. Bates & Sons submitted the lower of two bids at $246,930, said Lynn Duncan, director of the planning department. The department still needs to review both bids to make sure they meet all requirements, she said.
Duncan said the bid wasn’t optimal — “We were hoping for $150,000” — but it was $96,000 better than when the project went out to bid last spring.
“We still want to go forward with the project,” Duncan said. “We’re looking at how we might fund that now.”
The project will cut the size of the fountain’s pool by half and replace that section with brick. Underwater lights will be installed in the remaining part of the pool and positioned so they shine through the falling water.
The pool steps will be taken out and replaced with precast concrete blocks inscribed with text from Hawthorne’s story. Those blocks will encircle the fountain’s base.
The project will also add a new filtration system to the fountain and clean up the bronze plaques.
Duncan said the latest round of bidding had been scheduled for the winter, traditionally a slow season for contractors, in hopes that would translate into lower bids.
“That, apparently, has helped,” she said.
Neil H. Dempsey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.