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The pricetag for Hendersonville's Main Street mountain fountain has come in at $183,284.59 — a $100,000 cost overrun attributable in part to an underground pump system that the artist had not anticipated.
The fountain, the Hendersonville City Council's first venture into commissioning a piece of public art, is part of the city's $1.4 million makeover of the 500-700 blocks of Main Street.
The downtown work has included replacing underground infrastructure like water pipes, repaving the street, upgrading sidewalks and planters and adding benches. The City Council in July 2012 included two art projects as part of the third phase of the streetscape work. The council invited artists to submit designs for the First Citizens site, specifying that it would be some sort of fountain, and for the corner of Seventh and Main.
Asheville artist Berry Bate, who has done metal and stone work at Grove Park Inn, the Biltmore Estate and Jump Off Rock, was chosen from among three finalists for the fountain project. The council could not agree on the gateway piece and ultimately dropped it.
Dropping the second piece of art work saved the city money, said Councilman Jerry Smith. The total projected allocation was $143,000 counting a 10 percent contingency, he said. The city also used a $20,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Henderson County to help pay for the artwork.
Fountain pump costs $66,000
The cost released by the city included $86,574 for the artist, $1,529 for plants and moss, $66,275 for Medallion Pools for the design and construction of the vault and pump system, $24,098 for Trace and Co. for brick work, seat wall and lighting, $2,990 for granite curbstone directional markers and $2,162 for granite markers with logos.
"I don't feel like it was a mistake to put art on Main Street," Smith said. "It's difficult to fully understand how a piece of art is going to look in a certain space until it's completed and put in that space. In this situation what we voted on, from looking at drawings and diagrams, and what was actually built on Main Street are probably a little different than what I had imagined."
The city ended up spending $66,000 it did not count on when engineers determined that they had to replace the pump the artist had called for and install a much heavier system. That required taking out the old pump, digging underground and installing a vault for the pump and wiring. The work was done by Medallion Pools.
"Once they put it in there I think you had to do that," Councilman Ron Stephens said. "You had to have a place for the water to store. The pump they put in was too small and they had to go back and put in another pump. Somebody told me they bought a pump from a local store like you'd use in a little fishpond off your deck or something. ... I really wish it had not happened and of course the cost is totally out of control."
'Pretty much of a shocker'
Councilman Jeff Collis said the work by the pool company was "pretty much of a shocker" that put the cost way over what he had hoped.
"I was thinking more along the lines of $100,000 when all was said and done," he said. "That was just an unexpected cost. It wasn't anything that we expected with that cost but by the time it came through there was no way we could've scrapped it."
Collis and Mayor Barbara Volk favored a more abstract fountain. Other council members wanted the conventional fountain, which is made of stones and a copper top with water that the artist says represents the French Broad River. Granite directional markers, made from historic curbstone the city has reclaimed, cost $2,990, according to figures supplied by city.
"I've been sitting there watching people look at it," Collis said. "What she did in designing the mountain range I think it looks good."
Volk said the cost overrun arose from the city not realizing exactly what was needed to operate a fountain.
As for the art, "It wasn't what I was expecting," she said. "But I guess that is what happens with art when it changes as you go along."
Reaction she's heard has been mixed.
"Obviously some people dislike it. Others appreciate it," she said. "I hope some people will see it as the structure mellows and will feel happier about it.
Stephens he voted yes on the mountain fountain as a compromise because he wanted to block the abstract version that had two votes. But he's not happy with the result.
"I have not heard anybody that didn't have a negative response to it," he said, "most of which, from the remarks, I've heard particularly from the men I couldn't repeat in public."