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Future of Dearborn’s Henry Ford Centennial Library Fountain Uncertain

The iconic feature of the city’s biggest library may soon be gone due to mounting repair costs.

In another battle of legacy versus value, the city of Dearborn is contemplating doing away with the fountain.

Built in the 1960s along with the library on land donated by Ford Motor Company and with money granted by the Ford Foundation, the fountain is in substantial disrepair. The motor broke during a power outage in 2011, while the concrete slabs surrounding the structure are unstable, and the fountain itself leaks.

A recent analysis found that it will cost around $5,000 to replace the motor–but nearly a quarter of a million dollars to completely repair the fountain properly. Annual maintenance costs amount to around $30,000-$40,000.

“The fountain has too many problems,” said Mayor Jack O’Reilly at a recent budget meeting. “The cost of maintaining it as a working fountain isn’t sustainable.”

“We need to come up with something that will look aesthetically pleasing, but with the lowest amount of capital forward,” he added.

Library Director Maryanne Bartles on Friday presented several options to the Library Commission as to how to handle the problem–including installing a smaller fountain, paving over the structure, or removing it and replacing it with a memorial garden that would include the existing statue of Henry Ford, surrounded by decorative lighting and landscaping.

Commissioner Robert Taub said he felt the garden was the best option, but that the city would have to find people to maintain it.

Commission Chair Marcel Pultorak added that the Garden Club “has been very supportive of landscape maintenance and the like … and I believe it’s the best option.”

Some, however, have not been so quick to embrace the idea of replacing the structure.

The fountain was last repaired in 2000, thanks to a $250,000 donation from a local family.

Commissioner David Schlaff suggested that the Ford Family might be willing to foot the bill this time around.

“You’ve got some deep pockets with the Ford family … and it may be something they want to maintain,” he said. “I think we should explore all opportunities first before we go and bulldoze the thing.”

However, even if a grant is obtained to fix the fountain, the maintenance costs still fall on the city’s shoulders. In a time when every department is taking cuts, some felt that the cost was unreasonable.

“I would rather see the money go into city services than a decorative fountain,” Pultorak said.

The cost of turning the space into a garden would be minimal to the city, and the city is still looking for partners to help create and maintain the garden.

Correction: A previous version of this article mentioned that the city was looking to partner with the Penske Group on a garden that could replace the fountain. That is incorrect. The Penske Group is working with the city and the Garden Club on a separate, smaller garden.

Pat Niedermeyer April 16, 2012 at 11:19 PM
I LIKE THE IDEA OF A GAZEBO. BUT LETS TAKE A BIT FARTHER AND PUT IN A SMALL BAND SHELL AND THE HIGH SCHOOL BANDS AND SMALL MUSICAL GROUPS COULD ENTERTAIN THERE, AND IN THE WINTER THEY COULD PUT IN A SMALL ICE RINK FOR SKATING LIKE IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS. THERE ARE SO MANY LITTLE OR NO COST OPTIONS FOR THAT SPACE ARE ONLY LIMITED BY THE CITY'S IMAGINATION..OR WE COULD JUST LEAVE IT THE WAY IT IS NOW.PULL OUT THE PLUMBING AND SELL IT BUY AND PLACE A STATUE INSIDE OF O'RIELY JR AS A TESTIMONIAL TO THE WAY HE RAN THE CITY WE ALL LOVE. BOB
Rita Dennaoui April 17, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Is there any more gems in Dearborn. He our lovely mayor has sold everything in site, and destroyed every thing in site. Mr. Mayor ask the idiots who supposedly serve your office, give some of their wages. I cannot continue to contribute to a city that has failed its people. It is so sad to see Dearborn be destroyed by idiots. Put up for sale, since I am Arabic, I can tell you when Lebanon was Lebanon, my memory of a lovely garden with iron gates and lovely fountains, and people sitting around enjoying their water pipes and vendors selling roasted nuts and corn, You get the picture. Better yet, ask Ford, to help they have money
samharker April 17, 2012 at 08:10 PM
I'll be looking for your name among the mayoral candidates come next election.
S. Pearl April 19, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Sadly...I think Dearborn will slowly fall victim to the same blight and flight that Detroit has experienced. As a result, gradually all of the landmarks that once made the city great will be abandoned, fall into disrepair and then will be torn down. The libraries and pools are being closed, City Hall may be up for sale, the grand library fountain slated to be torn down....what's next? These are all symbols of what made Dearborn a great place to live in. I was born here, went to school here both K-12 and college, I work in Dearborn and live here as well. Unfortunately, the writing is on the wall for me, and it is with a heavy heart that I am placing my home on the market and moving elsewhere before Dearborn, like Detroit becomes a place I no longer recognize.
Lee Jacobsen April 20, 2012 at 01:28 AM
Pearl, How do you know the walls elsewhere will have better writings? The same bleak future was predicted for Royal Oak, now it is trendy. Dearborn has too many pluses that are waiting to be exploited, all it needs is some innovative folk to turn it around. A City theme of some sort would be a plus. With the train station becoming more prominent, folk from other places will come to Dearborn to see the sights, we just have to make them viable for viewing. We can start with free parking, and being friendlier to businesses so they will want to set up shop here in Dearborn and sell goods to all those new visitors. We can build a better city hall, a better fountain, and alternatives for libraries, ie information centers see this: http://www.collegeonline.org/library/librarians-online/future-librarians.html Dearborn will reinvent itself, check back when you can and check it out.

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