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.