Frannie's Fountain a victim of Joliet budget cuts

Wayne Horne | 6/25/2014, 12:21 p.m.
The city couldn't afford to fix the fountain in Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park so it filled it in with gravel ...
Frannie's Fountain in Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park is gone, filled in with gravel because the city could not afford the $20,000 needed to repair it. Wayne Horne


Wayne Horne

The plaque that dedicates the fountain in Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park to Frannie Schultz, wife of Joliet's late mayor, remains, even if the fountain does not.

The plaque that dedicates the fountain in Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park to Frannie Schultz, wife of Joliet's late mayor, remains, even if the fountain does not.

One item that didn’t make the list of priorities for the Joliet budget this year was the repair of the fountain in Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park.

Earlier this year, the city filled it in with gravel. Apparently the $20,000 cost to repair the fountain was too expensive.

The plaque that identifies the fountain as “Frannie” remains. It was placed in honor of the late Mayor Art Schultz’s spouse, who conceived the idea of a water feature in the park. It states her name should remain on the fountain in recognition of her contributions to the city of Joliet and the fountain project.

When it was dedicated in the year 2000, it was with the idea the city would maintain the fountain. It is disrespectful to display such a plaque on a failed project.

But maintaining city property would seem to be a low priority in general. The repair work needed at 13-year-old Silver Cross Field is expected to cost more than $1 million. Years of neglect at Union Station means renovation will cost at least $1.5 million. Flag pavilions were built with the idea of retrofitting them later with lights, but now that’s too expensive.

And you already know about the city’s broken fire hydrants. Last week’s column was about the flushing planned for some of Joliet’s 8,460 fire hydrants and the discrepancies between stated flushing/inspections vs. what actually happens.

Joliet Fire Chief Joe Formhals stated at a public meeting that all fire hydrants are flushed and inspected every two years. Actual reports disclosed that a little more than a third of Joliet’s hydrants had actually been flushed and inspected in the last two and a half years.

The report I received June 12 from Formhals indicated hydrant flushing was “in progress” for 2014. He had previously stated that hydrant flushing only occurred in the spring and fall. Hydrant flushing was not done during summer months because of the increased use of water by residents, Formhals said.

On June 16, the same day I spoke to Formhals regarding his report, the city manager’s office issued a media release announcing hydrant flushing would begin June 18. A revised schedule was released June 23, stating hydrant flushing would begin on June 24. The project is scheduled to run the first eight weeks of summer. There are nine fire hydrant zones in Joliet. The geographical area of the two zones where hydrants are being tested is on the far west side of Joliet. They have not been tested in more than three years. Hydrants east of the river are projected to be tested in 2015.

Why is this important to you? The credibility of statements made by public officials is important. We all rely on them to be factual and verifiable. Statements have been made that public safety is not at risk regarding hydrant operations. Reports do not verify those statements making them questionable. The use of any given hydrant or group of hydrants, of course, is rare. That does not mean the operational ability of any hydrant can be neglected.

The Joliet Fire Department is currently the only city department at full strength. Perhaps the time is now to have a citywide inspection of all hydrants. It should be a top priority. Public safety is the No. 1 responsibility of municipal government. Delaying the flushing and testing of hydrants over the next two to three years seems unwise.

Stay tuned…