Fountain Day marks a time to celebrate KC’s culture, raise awareness for urgent repairs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City celebrated its beloved fountains Tuesday and switched on all but one of the 48 city-owned fountains for the season.

Parks and Recreation held a ceremony to mark Fountain Day at the Delbert J. Haff Fountain at the entrance of Swope Park.

Newly finished upgrades and repairs to the tune of $1.4 million were showcased. The fountain now has a new basin, which is only about a foot deep. That will help the city save money on water. Wind sensors will also lower the fountain's spouts automatically.

Some of the money came from the city, some from GO KC bonds, and some from private donations.

A driver crashed into the Haff Fountain just last week, but workers fixed the damage in time for Fountain Day.

"We’ve raised $4 or 5 million over the last five years or so," said Pat O'Neill, with the City of Fountains Foundation. "And right now we're kind of in a wait-and-see mode and studying which fountains need the most work and how we're going to raise the money to do that."

O'Neill, a board member with the nonprofit, said most of the fountains don't have endowments for ongoing repairs.

Neighbors near the Meyer Circle Seahorse Fountain did raise enough for an endowment, and that will be used for a cover to prevent weather damage, like the kind that caused about $30,000 worth of repairs this year.

The Firefighters Fountain at 31st and Pennsylvania is another one of Kansas City's fountains in need of repairs.

The fountain honors all of the firefighters in Kansas City who died in the line of duty or died from issues related to the job. All of their names are on the memorial wall across from the fountain. The Firefighters Fountain and memorial was built in 1991 to pay tribute to the 1988 explosion that killed six firefighters.

Jimmy Walker is deputy chief of Kansas City's Fire Department. His father was a KC firefighter, and his name is among those on the memorial near the fountain.

"This is a source of pride," Walker said. "It's a source of honor for our fallen, and we just want it to be in the best condition possible."

But keeping the fountain working and looking its best is a huge task.

An assessment of the fountain shows repairs needed, from immediate to things that need to be done over the next 5-10 years. It's a long list, and the list for fountain and fountain valve repairs make up the bulk of it.

Everything at the park, including the memorial and site landscaping will total $2.5 million over a 10-year period.

"Not every fountain can be repaired at the same time," Walker said. "The parks department just doesn't have funding for it."

According to employees with Kansas City's Parks and Recreation Department, the budget for fountains is a little over $1 million annually.

"Assuming no mechanical failures here is a breakdown. The chemical and water totals are actuals for (fiscal year 2019), labor is approximate. 9,120 man hours including winterization and de-winterization," the department said.

The department provided FOX4 with this breakdown:

  • Labor total -- $213,134.40
  • Chemical total -- $44,978.22
  • Water total -- $793,539.69
  • Grand total -- $1,051,652.31

Parks and Recreation assesses which fountains need repairs, and then comes up with a plan to secure funding. For most of the projects, about 30% of the money comes from private donations. The rest comes from the city's funds and sometimes from GO KC bonds or voter approved bonds for infrastructure repairs.

Fountains with leaks and fountains that don't work at all take first priority for repairs. The fountain at Summit and Southwest Boulevard has a foundation that's so weak, it can't be turned on.

Walker understands, and that's why his department is doing that they can to raise money and take care of the Firefighters Fountain. KCFD held a fountain clean-up last weekend.

"We do have some smaller fundraisers working over the summer," Walker said. "Boulevardia is going to help us. We are going to man a beer tent there, and profits from that will go to the fountain restoration."

If you would like to donate to the repairs of the Firefighters Fountain, you can send donations to:

IAFF Local 42 Community Assistance
ATTN: KC FF Fountain Fund
6320 Manchester Avenue, Suite 42A
Kansas City, MO 64133

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