Our view: When it comes to functioning fountains, Luzerne County flounders

August 12th, 2017 3:39 pm

What is it about Luzerne County and public fountains?

Seriously, is there something in the water that, you know, makes any attempt at a water display fail? Maybe acid mine drainage eats the pipes, or untreated sewage gets in somehow to clog them?

Admittedly, public fountains — the type for show, not drinking (those are a different editorial) — are by logic and need the low amenity on the taxpayer totem pole. We need police and fire protection, paved roads, effective sewage treatment, vermin control, smart code enforcement and other services to make a society — and a municipality — work. We also need clean water flowing through a myriad of pipes.

For civilization to work, we don’t need pretty patterns of cascading H2O. Mind you, there was a time when a functioning fountain was the epicenter of urban living. If you wanted a city, you needed a water source, and a fountain at the heart of the city provided that. But that was before indoor plumbing.

Still, done right, public fountains can be pretty, pretty relaxing and pretty potent draws in any city.

People seek out the Trevi Fountain in Rome just to see it (and to toss in a coin or three). What would France’s Palace of Versailles be without the Latona Fountain? And even if you’ve only watched it in videos, the synchronization of music, light and water height in the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas is stunning testimony to modern technology.

And then there’s us.

Wilkes-Barre’s central fountain in Public Square has sputtered intermittently for years, even decades. Most recently, the concrete holding up the drain grates has cracked, and the central spout has been plugged with a flower pot.

The other fountain in Public Square? It has been off so long most people don’t even realize that circle at the intersection with South Main is a fountain.

These are old examples, with outdated infrastructure not only too costly to repair, we’re told, but made of parts no longer available. It’s not a good excuse, but it’s not the worst one.

By comparison, the (dry) fountain at Millennium Circle in the River Commons is pretty new, and it’s hard to comprehend why it leaks so badly it was shut off to save water — even though it was designed, like most new fountains, to save water by recirculating it.

Built in that modern style of a mechanized geyser — you know, water shooting straight up from what amounts to a hole in the ground — these weren’t exactly the most compelling fountains to begin with. But when they don’t work, they become boondoggles at best, and eyesores at worst.

Maybe such fountains are more prone to breaking, with all the pipes underground rather than ensconced in statuary. Or maybe there’s no money to fix them because no one sees them as worth fixing. The Wynken, Blynken and Nod Fountain in Wellsboro’s Public Square Park? Now that’s something even strangers would probably chip in to keep running.

What is it about Luzerne County and public fountains?

Maybe the problem is that we love to make fountains nobody loves.

Adrienne Wren runs through the fountain at the Riverfront park in Wilkes-Barre when it was still functioning in 2014.
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/web1_fountain.jpegAdrienne Wren runs through the fountain at the Riverfront park in Wilkes-Barre when it was still functioning in 2014.