Windsor council to hire consultant to design new Peace Fountain

Windsor city councillors unanimously voted Monday evening to hire a consultant to design a structure that could eventually replace the 41-year-old Charles Brooks Memorial Peace Fountain. 

Council also voted to make immediate repairs on the fountain, in order to meet Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) standards. 

The decision came after a report to council outlined three possible options that would attend to the aging fountain. 

It will cost Windsor approximately $178,000 to hire a design consultant. That figure doesn't include the cost of potentially replacing the fountain, nor does it include the cost of implementing immediate repairs.

"You have to look at the total cost of ownership to understand whether it's a good investment or not," said Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens while speaking with reporters. "We won't know where we are until we actually go through the process of working with the consultant to get us to the endgame."

The fountain, which is anchored in the Detroit River by Reaume Park every year from May to October, has been considered an integral part of the Windsor landscape since 1978.

Plus, it is the only international floating fountain in the world.

"This is an iconic piece on our waterfront," Ward 6 Councillor Jo-Anne Gignac previously told CBC News.

"Just the visuals of it over the years have really worked its way into people's hearts — but it's also in commemoration of Charlie Brooks, who was a very active union leader in our city at the time."

'It's expensive'

When it was first put in place, it had a life expectancy of 20 years. But now, 41 years later, city council is looking at pricey options to give it the fix it needs.

City of Windsor

"There's no question that, no matter how we go, it's expensive," Gignac said.

"It's so bad, that getting the parts for it are extremely difficult.... The parts have to come from Germany and the company that makes them, of course, has moved along in technology. And it's getting more and more difficult to get those parts."

According to a report put together by city administration, the fountain originally cost $562,000. In 1988, the fountain underwent a major refurbishment which cost $450,000, which, along with annual maintenance, helped extend its life expectancy. 

But now, years later, age is finally taking its toll on the fountain, and the internal hardware is showing "signs of failure."

Earlier this year, the fountain's pumps needed to be repaired, and the electrical panels were replaced as a temporary solution because of "significant corrosion." 

In order for the fountain to be put up again in 2020, more work needs to be done. 

Ultimately, the report states that the fountain is at the end of its lifecycle. At Monday night's city council meeting, council will consider three options to determine what to do next. 

Three options

The first option is to order repairs on an "as needed" basis, which would amount to $475,000 plus an additional $200,000 to replace the control system, which the report says could fail at any point. However, this option also comes with financial risks.

"If you do option one, and you just repair it, you've got sunk costs right? And next year, probably something else is going to go wrong," Gignac said.

Sanjay Maru/CBC

The second option is a complete refurbishment of the fountain, which would cost $1.5 million.

This would include the repair and reinforcement of the stainless steel structure and the flotation tanks, the replacement and upgrade of the control system, and a replacement and upgrade to the entire plumbing system. 

This would maintain the features and base structure of the fountain with the incorporation of more current technologies, the report explained. 

The final option — and the option councillors supported at Monday evening's meeting — is for the city to hire a consultant to create a new design for a replacement fountain.

The report says that this redesign would take years to complete.

'It's a draw'

Windsor resident Marcel Gagnon thinks refurbishing the fountain is a worthwhile investment.

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"I think if they need to spend some money on it — they've spent money on worse things, so that would be a good thing to keep going."

He lives nearby, and says that in the summer months, he usually visits the park four or five times a week.

"I like the fountain," he said. "It's a draw for tourists and for the residents, really."

Katerina Georgieva/CBC

And Gagnon isn't the only frequent visitor of the park. Gignac says she walks the park just about every day in the summertime.

"Reaume Park itself has a connection to my family," she said, adding that it "pulls at the heartstrings."

She explained that her family donated the land for Reaume Park to the city.

"It means a lot to me but I think it goes beyond that — it means a lot to people across the region," she said.

"I would be surprised if council decided that they didn't want to keep the fountain."

According to the report, if council chooses to take no action, then the fountain will not be able to operate after this year.