Parkersburg needs $150K more for fountain site

Mayor to present budget at City Council meeting

PARKERSBURG — Before Parkersburg City Council gets to work on the 2020-21 budget, it will be asked to allocate an additional $150,000 for the site of the replacement for Jackson Memorial Fountain in City Park.

A resolution to move money from the stabilization fund to parks and recreation for the site work is on the agenda for Tuesday’s council meeting, set for 7:30 p.m. in council chambers on the second floor of the Municipal Building. Mayor Tom Joyce will also present the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year at that time.

Built in 1905, the fountain was severely damaged in October 2018 after heavy winds caused the upper bowl to separate from the rest of the structure, resulting in the bowl, its distinctive “Lady of the Lake” statue and other pieces shattering.

Because the original structure could not be repaired, city officials opted to replace the fountain with a replica as close to the original as possible, including making the bowls of cast iron rather than the fiberglass used to replace them after a lightning strike in the early ’90s. They allocated a total of $358,100 to the purchase of the replacement fountain and preparation of the site.

The fountain is being fabricated at Robinson Iron in Alexander City, Alabama, at a cost of $264,000, Finance Director Eric Jiles said. That leaves $94,100 left for the site work, which includes a new bottom basin and foundation, electrical and water infrastructure and sidewalks to match historical photographs of the site.

But the lowest bid recently came in at $237,000, Jiles said.

“Quite frankly, we were shocked,” Joyce said.

City Engineer Adam Stout said he could not pinpoint one specific reason for the higher-than-expected bids. It’s a trend state and consulting engineers have been seeing, he said, with one possible factor being that contractors are very busy.

“It’s making it extremely difficult for all of us to estimate based on historic unit bid prices,” Stout said. “We are trying to hit a moving target.”

Joyce said he asked staff members about changing or reducing the scope of the work, but “that’s just not a logical option, given the fact that we want the fountain to work and we want it to work for another hundred years.”

In addition to $150,000 allocated from the general fund in the 2018-19 fiscal year and $58,830 from the insurance reimbursement for the fountain, the remainder of the budgeted money came from a memorial fund established in 1992 by a bequest from the late Caroline Downey Jackson, a member of the family that had the fountain built. The fund had been dedicated to repair and maintenance of the fountain, but a ruling by Wood County Circuit Court Judge Jason Wharton allowed the city to use the money instead to replace it.

As part of that petition, the city received the endorsement of Jackson family heirs. One of the things officials told the family they would do is put the fountain back in working order, Joyce said.

“I don’t like taking money out of the rainy day fund, but right now we don’t have anywhere else to get it,” he said.

Jiles said the $150,000 allocation would also provide “a small margin for contingency.”

Before action is taken on that resolution, Joyce will give council the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1, and offer an assessment of the state of the city.

The mayor declined to go into specifics about the budget in advance, saying that the administration intends to continue to focus on infrastructure the best it can with the funds available.

Also on the agenda is a resolution allowing for the temporary vending of beer and/or wine for the Point Park Concert Series, Taste of Parkersburg, Downtown Throwdown, Riverfest and Artoberfest, all of which take place in downtown Parkersburg. Another resolution reappoints attorney C. Blaine Myers as an administrative law judge and names attorney Jessica Myers to a vacant administrative law judge post.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.


On the Agenda

Tuesday’s Parkersburg City Council agenda:

* Presentation of the proposed 2020-21 budget by Mayor Tom Joyce.

* A resolution requesting a budget revision to move $150,000 from the stabilization fund to parks and recreation to complete the Jackson Fountain project.

* A resolution reappointing C. Blaine Myers and appointing Jessica Myers as administrative law judges.

* A resolution allowing the temporary vending of beer and/or wine downtown for the Point Park Concert Series, Taste of Parkersburg, Downtown Throwdown, Riverfest.