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A popular fountain is tapped for more hours

No one could explain why the fountain at Kate Jackson Park was shut down for two hours daily, so now it will run all day.

© St. Petersburg Times
published August 9, 2002

The water was on when Alan Nelson, 65, toted his grandchildren down to the Kate Jackson Park fountain just before noon Monday.

The trio decided to take a break for lunch. By the time they got back the water was off.

It happens every day between noon and 2 p.m. at the park off Rome Avenue.

"Can you turn it on, Grandpa?" asked curly-haired Jordan Lienhart, 2, as she and her brother Grant, 6, splashed around in a leftover puddle.

Grandpa couldn't. But the city could.

Monday, by coincidence, Tampa's water department approved a variance allowing Kate Jackson's fountain to operate uninterrupted from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

"A lot of young children use the park. They love the fountain," said Ross Ferlita, parks director.

The origin of the daily two-hour shutdown was unclear. Ferlita said it was for maintenance. The group that pays for maintenance said that wasn't so.

Randy Hollingworth, who helped map out the park and design the fountain, said he was delighted to see an extension of hours.

The park is enjoying a grand rebirth. Three years ago, neighborhood residents banded together to pay for lush gardens. A donor funded the fountain. Now the city is building a $900,000 community center, supported by a 1999 bond issue.

Since the 35-foot circular fountain's debut in 2000, its waters have ebbed and flowed, at the mercy of drought restrictions.

In April, the water department approved a variance allowing its operation. In June, the fountain dried up after construction of the neighboring community center cut off its water source.

People asked why it was off and then wanted to know why it was off for those two hours, says City Council member Rose Ferlita. The district's council member, Linda Saul-Sena, was the first to bring it to the council's attention.

Saul-Sena, who was traveling earlier this week, couldn't be reached for comment.

"There are two issues regarding the operation of the fountain," explained council member Ferlita.

"Why is the fountain off for two hours during the day and why is it on at all?"

Emergency water restrictions prohibit the operation of decorative fountains -- but recirculating swimming pools are permitted.

Because the fountain is recreational in nature, recirculates and chlorinates its water, it falls under that category, explained parks official Ross Ferlita.

"All people have to do is ask for a variance," said Sandra Anderson, consumer affairs manager for the Tampa Water Department.

The department looks at each request on a case-by-case basis.

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