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    Drought concerns drain popular Largo fountain

    The spouting fixture at Central Park uses up to 20,000 gallons every week.

    By ERIC STIRGUS

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 13, 2001


    LARGO -- Marianne Spinelli wanted to take her friend's daughter to the cool waters of the fountain near the clock tower at Largo Central Park, but Thursday, that would not happen.

    City workers turned off the fountain Monday in response to countywide water restrictions.

    "We decided to do it in support of the restrictions," said Greg Brown, the city's parks superintendent.

    The Southwest Water Management District issued an emergency order on March 20 requiring the six members of Tampa Bay Water -- Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties, and the cities of New Port Richey, St. Petersburg and Tampa -- to increase their efforts to conserve water and enforce water restrictions.

    Although Largo is not a part of Tampa Bay Water, City Manager Steven Stanton sent a memo to all city department directors this week to make sure they are complying with all water restrictions.

    Between 15,000 and 20,000 gallons of water a week are used to operate the fountain.

    Spinelli was surprised and disappointed.

    "I wanted to put her feet in the water," said Spinelli, 24, of Dunedin. "It's a shame because it is so pretty," she said.

    City Commissioner Jean Halvorsen, who got a memo earlier this week explaining the decision, anticipated there would be some unhappy folks when they discovered the fountain was shut off. Hundreds of people from across the county visit the park. Since the park was opened in 1995, some parkgoers have ventured to the fountain, near the white clock tower, to frolic or cool off in its waters.

    Although Halvorsen did not want to see the fountain turned off, she understood the decision.

    "It's something that has to be done," she said Thursday. "Even though I'll miss seeing it, and even though a lot of people will miss seeing it, it has to be done."

    Brown said the city has not decided when it will turn the fountain on again.

    "If (Swiftmud officials) remove the restrictions, we would turn it back on," he said. "But right now, it is off until further notice."

    A fountain near the Military Court of Honor at Largo Central Park is staying on because the city uses reclaimed water to operate it, Brown said. Reclaimed water is not subject to the restrictions.

    Drinking water is used to operate the fountain that was shut off.

    Tera Booze-Saxton said she appreciated the city's efforts. Booze-Saxton brought her two children, Teresa, 9, and Cordell, 4, to the park Thursday to have lunch. Although she thinks the fountain is beautiful, she says it is more important to conserve water.

    "I think with water getting so tight and utilities going up, it is an expense we don't need," said Booze-Saxton, 29, who lives in Ridgecrest.

    Spinelli, who has noticed people still watering their lawns, thinks Largo should keep the fountain running.

    "It looks dull now," she said.

    Recent coverage

    Tampa Bay Water gets restrictions in lieu of fines (March 21, 2001)

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