A desire for upgraded lighting and more waterproofing has elevated total costs to nearly $1 million to return the Sea Horse Fountain at Meyer Circle to operation.
The Kansas City Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners on Tuesday authorized $299,752 for additional work on the fountain that has been dry since 2015, when flooding in the pump room made it inoperable.
Originally, the repair work was expected to cost about $605,000.
“The numbers came in higher than we’d hoped,” said parks department director Mark McHenry. “These fountains are a challenge.”
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Meanwhile, the city also decided to upgrade the fountain renewal with the addition of perimeter rope lighting that can change the water’s colors or light it even when the fountain is dry, improve the original waterproofing specifications for the basin, and add a heavy-duty door to the underground pump room that could withstand a truck driving over it.
The damage to one of the city’s showiest fountains, in a prominent location at Meyer and Ward Parkway boulevards, generated a flood of private donations to help finance the repairs, so taxpayers aren’t shouldering the full cost.
A philanthropic campaign spearheaded by neighbors and other civic leaders received pledges of $955,000 for the fountain fixup, with remaining funds to establish an endowment specifically for future Sea Horse needs.
The city previously authorized $287,000 from district Public Improvement Advisory Committee funds and $25,000 from city sales tax receipts for the fountain repairs. The new authorization sets the total limit for the public outlay at $586,752.
McHenry said parks department maintenance funds will cover the city’s share of the added costs.
As part of the new deal, the city will pay about $137,000 to cover bids that came in from contractors and subcontractors that were higher than the original estimate. The city also will cover the more sophisticated lighting at a cost of about $100,000.
The private fundraising group will pay for the more extensive weatherproofing on the circle.
“We’ve offered to spend more of what was to have been our endowment up front because part of the change orders are to extend the life of the fountain, and that’s what the endowment would be used for anyway,” said David Fowler, who led the fountain fundraising campaign.
“We’re doing that in good faith,” Fowler said. “The city didn’t ask for it. We made a voluntary offer. … We think that by doing so, we’ve freed up money that the city could spend on other fountains as the need arises.”
Even with the added work, the timetable set by JE Dunn Construction Co., the general contractor, the project is on target for completion.
“We’re shooting for mid-September, and I think we’ll make it,” McHenry said.
The work includes a new pump room, improved pool basin, water pipes, spray jets and masonry. Some parts of the fountain date back more than nine decades, and it has been refurbished and redesigned several times over the years.