With many of Kansas City's signature fountains needing millions of dollars in renovations, a nonprofit group is starting a fundraising campaign to help preserve them, saying the structures are important to the city's national reputation as the "City of Fountains."
About half of Kansas City's 48 public fountains need repairs beyond routine maintenance, said Mark McHenry, the city's director of parks and recreation. A preliminary estimate for repairs on just five deteriorating fountains exceeds $1 million, The Kansas City Star reported.
"The longer it goes, the worse it gets," said McHenry, noting that many of Kansas City's fountains are 50 years old or older.
The city has budgeted $250,000 specifically for fountain repairs but that's not nearly enough, according to the City of Fountains Foundation, which is launching the fundraising effort.
"We all love our fountains, but we often take them for granted," said Pat O'Neill, a foundation board member. "I think it'll be well-received. Those fountains and our statuary are really signature pieces of our community."
A half-cent sales tax increase for parks approved by voters in August will help pay for routine maintenance. The parks department expects to have funds this year for electricity, cleaning and basic repairs but not the bigger fixes. City Manager Troy Schulte is recommending budgeting another $250,000.
The fundraiser marks the first time the City of Fountains Foundation is seeking money for overall repairs, rather than for a particular fountain. The exact goal has not been determined.
Board member Anita Gorman said some people question why money should be spent on fountains when the city has so many other needs. She contends the fountains are a worthwhile mission because they provide places for the public to relax and bring national recognition to Kansas City.
"These things are good," she said. "They are for everybody. They're not just for the well-to-do or the well-educated or the well-connected. They lift everybody."
Officials with the fountain foundation said other groups are likely to raise fund for specific fountains.
"What we could do is continue to put a Band-Aid on this stuff," said Jean-Paul Chaurand, president of the Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners. "But let's take care of it. Get (the fountains) in really good shape so the long-term maintenance won't be so difficult."
The foundation also is promoting a new book devoted to the fountains. "The City of Fountains: Kansas City's Legacy of Beauty and Motion," features photographs of more than 100 fountains. A portion of the proceeds from the book, published by a division of The Kansas City Star, benefits the fountain's fund.
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