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    Safety Harbor may tap spring for fountain

    A pipe already runs from the spring and can feed the planned fountain, thus conserving drinking water.

    By LEON M. TUCKER

    © St. Petersburg Times, published May 18, 2001


    SAFETY HARBOR -- In an effort to conserve water, Safety Harbor officials want to tap into a mineral spring that runs beneath a portion of the city and use it to fill a fountain in the city's planned Marina Park.

    The city has known about the underground water source for years, and officials also realize that nearly 5,700 gallons a day regularly spill out into Tampa Bay.

    So why wasn't the mineral spring tapped for use earlier?

    "I actually thought it was closer to the spa, but then I found out it was right across the street from the fountain," Mayor Pam Corbino said. "I'm just delighted that we found a way to put water in our fountain without taking potable water from our citizens and without it costing anything."

    As it turns out, there is already a pipe that runs from the spring and can easily feed the 14-foot-tall, 30-foot-wide fountain, which will be off Bayshore Boulevard.

    "This will be nothing more complicated than a swimming pool because the pipe is already under the road," said Steve Wylie, city manager. "This would be a small project."

    Like many cities, Safety Harbor has its drinking water piped in from Pinellas County's system and then sells it to residents.

    And during one of the worst droughts on record, cities hooked into the county system have been required to conserve, which means running drinking water through the fountain would have been out of the question.

    Using the spring has given the fountain another chance.

    "It looks like we will be able to do this," Wylie said. "It would take a while to use (the spring water), but we would rig it up so that it would not only fill the fountain but replenish it."

    The park project's original estimated cost was $812,000, and it has received some criticism. Commissioner Neil Brickfield in particular has expressed displeasure with the cost.

    "The source of water is a good idea, considering it's only going out into the bay," Brickfield said. "But I still think the fountain is a bad idea -- it's money unwisely spent."

    During the nearly two years the project has been in its developmental stages, the city has revised its plans, saving money in the process.

    The latest cut came when plans for a $100,000 observation deck were deleted from the project after the Southwest Florida Water Management District reviewed the original site plans and decided the park needs a water retention area.

    But such changes, Wylie said, were not financially motivated.

    "Our approach to using the spring water is primarily environmental, not expense," he said. "The removal of the deck served a practical purpose because there was a level of uneasiness connected with constructing it, and I believe people's concern with the deck had more to do with the appearance of the park than the cost."

    To fill the Marina Park fountain with the spring water could take as long as two days and 8,700 gallons, which is is roughly two-thirds the amount of water in an in-ground home swimming pool.

    And although the fountain will be equipped with a hydraulic pump designed to spout water, whether it will be turned on still depends on when the drought is over.

    "If we did turn it on, we would put signs up to make it clear that it was spring water being used," Wylie said. "But we likely won't turn it on until it rains again."

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