Winnipeg has turned on the taps for neighbourhood fountains that better resembled cement bowls this year than anything spewing water.
After an outcry from neighbours who blamed the decommissioned fountains for excessive algae levels, city council voted last month to revert an earlier decision to close a dozen fountains in retention ponds to save money.
Some of the fountains began spouting last week, said Waverley West Coun. Janice Lukes, who pushed for the reversal.
The councillor has been greeted to photos of functioning fountains in her email inbox, she said.
“People get very upset when they’re paying taxes, higher taxes, on the backs of these ponds. They want to see the fountain,” Lukes said.
The water and waste department shut down the fountains after being ordered to find financial savings from the city. The decision was supposed to save $320,000 over four years.
The city has been asked to find the money from salaries it isn’t paying through vacancy management.
A department official, however, told Winnipeg’s executive policy committee last month that turning on the fountains will do nothing to control the algae or stop the mosquito population from booming.
Director Moira Geer attributed various other factors, including high temperatures, strong winds delaying the spreading of herbicides and heavy rains flushing nutrients into the ponds.
The fountains, she said, “doesn’t have a function, it’s purely esthetic.”
Even if that’s the case, water and waste chair Brian Mayes told the EPC meeting that labelling the fountains for only their esthetic purposes downplays its value.
“If you own a home near Fountainview Park, which is named Fountainview Park because there’s a view of the fountain, there’s nothing else in the park — there’s no cafe, there’s no cricket pitch,” the St. Vital councillor said at the EPC meeting.
“If the one function in the park is a fountain, I think it does matter to people.”
Mayes said in an interview Saturday that turning off the fountains was an inadvertent consequence of passing the budget, which he’s pleased the city has rectified.
Lukes said the months without running fountains shows the downfall of only having select councillors poring over budget drafting documents every year. The process is restricted to the mayor’s inner circle, known as the executive policy committee.
She dismisses the city’s position that the fountains are solely decorative, arguing that even a little water circulation in these ponds would help with aeration.