June 15, 2001
To: Ms. Benetti, Mayor's Office
Andrew Taylor, Miller Park Advisory Council
Subject: Scheduling the Ron K. Bills Fountain
This Spring there was much confusion and consternation around
the scheduling of the Ron K. Bills Fountain. I thought that these
issues were put to rest last Fall when I met with several Parks
Dept. representatives, including Ed Jackson, my Co-manager from
the Parks Dept. for the project.
At that time it was determined that a start-up date be selected
for sometime in late April. Since Ron Bill's birthday was April
5th, it was deemed appropriate that such a significant date should
be honored to start the operation of the main fountain.
It is, after all a memorial fountain, and the difference of a
couple of weeks seems insignificant as compared to the meaning
of the birth date.
It is important to recognize the different aspects of the fountain.
There is the main fountain and the central fountain
bubbler. These distinctions were discussed, verified and approved
at numerous CORE meetings in the Parks Dept. approval process.
Central fountain bubbler: This portion of the fountain
serves several distinct purposes. The first is symbolic. It is
the waters of life, the eternal flow of energy, the recurrence
of memory. It is not only the sight but the sound of water that
affects us, whether we are passersby by or participants in play.
A fountain without water flowing is a very sad thing. This fountain
is to evoke the joy of Ron's life, not his death.
The central bubbler is on its own pump and can be run either with
the main pump or alone. It was designed so that when the main
fountain was off, it would provide activity, both in the visual
and acoustical play of the water and the people it naturally gathers.
It has been my fear that with the fountain dry for long periods
of time it may invite unwanted activity. This could take the form
of vandalism and graffiti. It has been my observation that even
with a small amount of water flowing, the fountain gathers and
amazing assortment of people who otherwise simply pass through
when it is dry.
The central bubbler is the filter system. Whenever the
fountain is on, the central bubbler must be on. Otherwise
the water will not be filtered and bromated for health safety.
During periods of active play when the main fountain is on we
can have heavy usage. Because the main fountain pumps so much
more water than the central bubbler, not all water may pass through
the filter. However if the central bubbler is left to run longer
hours, especially during the evenings and early morning hours
it will restore the entire cistern for another days usage.
Main Fountain: It is obvious that this is the big show
and the one that the kids and the community wait for. It is not
unreasonable to operate the main fountain when the temperature
reaches 70 degrees, especially in the Spring and Fall. However
this is too limiting on a couple of points. Once the weather stabilizes
for the Summer, it again has been my observation that the kids
and parents expect it to be on when they arrive. Many people last
Summer made the fountain a regular stop in their day. It was especially
clear that parents with small children took advantage of the morning
hours when there seemed to be fewer older kids who showed up later.
The Main Fountain also was meant to accommodate celebrations,
no matter what time of year. It was discussed at numerous meetings
that if someone was having a wedding, birthday, anniversary, etc..
that this would be an additional draw to the Miller Community
Center. In fact the former Parks Dept. Director, Holly Miller
chose to have her daughter's 13th birthday at Miller Community
Center because of the fountain.
Timers: The pump house is equipped with a series of digital
timers that run all the main aspects of the fountain. They have
an infinite amount of settings to accommodate a wide range of
conditions. I would be more than happy to show the Community Center
staff how to program them.
Water: The water is recirculated, filtered and bromated.
There is no clear history of water usage. Last year, the first
year of operation, had the unfortunate circumstance of the automatic
fill valve getting stuck open. No one in the Parks Dept. monitored
the cistern until they got a $28,000 water bill. A warning light
has been installed on the outside of the pump house for the Community
Center staff to see from the main office. However it was installed
without a wire guard and is now broken and out of commission.
Power: When the issue of electric use was brought up as
a conservation measure, I had the original installing electrician
return to give me a live load calculation. He turned on every
light, pump, compressor, and gauge he could. The result; the fountain
uses at maximum 14.4 kw per hour. This is about the energy used
to run one and a half kitchen stoves. At residential rates, it
equals about 46 cents an hour to run. Two things to consider,
one the Parks Dept. probably receives lower commercial rates.
Two, all of the equipment is seldom, if ever, all on at the same
time. Operating costs will be lower than calculated here.
Maintenance: It was designed to be energy and water efficient.
I have maintained the fountain myself the first month of operation.
Before the timers were set and all equipment had to be manually
started each day. I found that I could get everything operational,
even cleaning the filters, within half an hour.
Through years of dialog, meetings and arguments involving the
Parks Dept. the community, landscape architects and myself, it
is clear that it is something unique, special and a great asset
to the City of Seattle. It is the hub of the circulation pattern
of Miller Park. Because it was built by the community itself for
itself and for others to share, it is also the hub of the community.
The Ron K. Bills Fountain is also a memorial that caries it own
set of requirements for proper operation. The Ron K. Bills Fountain
at Miller Park is not your typical water feature and should not
be treated with disregard or blanket rules.
I have always made myself available to make this project work
for the neighborhood and therefore the City. I am willing to continue
to do so until we reach an agreement as to how and when the Ron
K. Bills Fountain is to be operated. I request a meeting with
you, or another representative from the mayor's office, the Parks
Dept., Andrew Taylor from the Miller Park Neighborhood Association/Miller
Park Advisory Council, Randy Allworth Co-designer, Miller Community
Center staff and myself. There must be enough authority in this
group to make the necessary decisions and have them carried
out. Meeting with the Parks Dept. alone has proven futile.
Project Manager/ Co-designer