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Committee suspends efforts for fountain

By BRYAN GILMER

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 20, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- Amid waning enthusiasm for things millennial, a punishing drought and changes in downtown, the idea to build an interactive Millennium Fountain in St. Petersburg has gone down the drain.

The idea was to install a fountain concealed beneath a flat surface, like ones in West Palm Beach and Atlanta. People can walk among the jets, which squirt water into the air in unpredictable patterns.

Mayor David Fischer suggested such a fountain last year to a committee, led by First Night St. Petersburg, that was looking for a way to memorialize the millennium. The City Council earmarked $250,000 for the project on the condition that the group match the amount with private donations.

Last month, leaders of the volunteer committee said they were looking for a site for the project, and they toured Crescent Lake Park, Spa Beach Park and Central Avenue. But now they have sent Fischer a letter saying they will stop working on the project.

"The committee felt that the timing was not yet right with so much happening in our downtown," co-chairpersons Phil Graham and Pat Mason wrote. "We look forward to continuing our work at a future time."

They listed several obstacles the committee encountered:

The lack of a site "we thought was a perfect fit."

The addition of condominiums and entertainment venues in downtown, which will "affect the whole picture of downtown usage."

The need for $250,000 in city money "when other needs may be seen as more important."

The inability to raise money from the private sector.

The severe drought, which has prompted many government agencies to turn off public fountains.

Fischer wrote letters to the fountain committee thanking them for their service, and Friday he was circumspect about their decision.

"It was just a suggestion I had, and they got excited about it," Fischer said. "I was never wedded to it. As time went on, they saw that they were not going to be able to pursue corporate contributions to the magnitude that was going to be needed."

The $250,000 in city money will be reallocated in the budget the City Council is currently considering, Fischer said.

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