Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fourth Time the Charm for Mobile Plaza Fountain?

The fountain at the corner of Seminary Street and Mobile Plaza is not what most citizens of Florence would call attractive. Constructed in 1972, the three tiered structure falls under the category of "what were they thinking?" Thinking? Perhaps we give the city fathers entirely too much credit.

By 2002, all three levels of the fountain had been filled in with dirt and the edifice converted to a flower bed. Hester Cope of the Florence Mainstreet Project headed an effort to restore the fountain, an effort made easier by the fact that the fountain's plumbing miraculously still worked. The Mainstreet Project paid off-duty Florence Water Department employees to do any required maintenance and local artists to paint the inside of the fountain with images of water lilies and frogs. Voila--a Florence landmark was saved--or was it?

In 2006, inspections of the cobble stoned plaza found the unique pavement to be crumbling. The repaving project was considered a priority, and a new fountain was among the budget items included in the Mobile Plaza renovation project even though it had been renovated only four years previously.

By 2007, the City of Florence still had not begun renovations to the fountain or the one-block plaza, but had hired the third architect to oversee the job. After paying two Florence architectural firms a retainer, the city finally decided to offer the job to the Birmingham firm of J. K. Terry and Associates. While, Lynn, & Collins and Robert Whitten had already been paid $18,970.00 when Terry was contracted at a cost to the city of $47,500.00, a fee that did not include any physical renovations to the fountain or the plaza. Mayor Bobby Irons called the hiring of the previous Florence architects a matter of miscommunication among city officials. As of today, no actual work has been done on either the surface of Mobile Plaza or the fountain.

Now, according to Florence Councilman Dick Jordan, the city is ready to hire a fourth architect to design an entirely new fountain at the busy city corner. Florence will be paying Andy Brown $17,500.00 for his fountain design, a design that will be highly influenced by the architecture of Wilson Dam.

If the current fountain has any fans, we're not aware of it. The new fountain sounds like a dramatic and much needed asset to the downtown area. We're not sure what the first three architects hired by the city think of the latest version of the project. Perhaps as long as they were paid with taxpayers' money, they smiled all the way to the bank.

Photo by Jim Hannon

What's up with this: Councilman Barry Morris is opposing the $225,000.00 resurfacing project of Mobile Plaza. We're not sure if he is genuinely concerned about the cost or simply wants to keep his opposition record at 100%.