City of Rock Hill's fountain has been disappointing

The fountain at Fountain Park on Friday, April 8.
The fountain at Fountain Park on Friday, April 8. tkimball@heraldonline.com

A centerpiece attraction in downtown Rock Hill is named Fountain Park. But for much of its short life, the namesake of the park has been more a squirt than a fountain.

And, as of this week, even the single functioning jet in the center of the fountain will be out of commission.

We know that any contraption as technologically complex as this fountain can have operational kinks. But the extent of the problems with the fountain’s plumbing raises questions about whether those who installed the system were qualified.

The fountain was dedicated with a chorus of oohs and ahhs from onlookers in December 2014. The fountain, which was the central component of downtown’s Fountain Park, looked spectacular, with a number of powerful jets that spouted water more than 120 feet in the air and produced continuous arcs of water all around the fountain.

The park instantly became a key downtown drawing card, site of concerts, food truck caravans and leisurely strolls. It was a symbol of the ambitious development of the so-called Old Town section of the city.

Unfortunately, the fountain soon was plagued with problems. Last fall, the fountain was closed and drained of all its 50,000 gallons of water so workers could perform maintenance.

When a pipe beneath the fountain’s concrete bowl broke, soil washed up and clogged the pipes that feed the alternating jets. Workers at the time focused on keeping the central geyser operating for the upcoming ChristmasVille festival and other holiday celebrations.

But the fountain hasn’t been fully functional since, and the same problems persist. Last week, the city announced a major overhaul of the fountain, including excavating a 45-foot hole in the center of the fountain and replacing portions of the pumping system.

The work is projected to take three or four months, during which a portion of Saluda Street is likely to be blocked much of the time. And, of course, Fountain Park won’t have an operating fountain.

Thankfully, the fountain is under a three-year warranty. W.P. Law of Lexington, the subcontractor that installed the water system, will handle the repairs at no cost to the city. The city hopes to keep the maintenance contract going even after the three-year period is up.

We hope the issues with the water system will be solved once and for all, and that the fountain will need only routine maintenance when this project is finished. If the fountain is constantly plagued with problems, it could become more an eyesore than the focal point is was designed to be.

If the Romans can keep their ancient fountains running for centuries, Rock Hill’s fountain should be fully functional for more than a few months at a time.

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