It’s so nice to walk through Central Park on my way to the downtown post office each day and enjoy the Central Park fountain that is now fully activated for the season and looking beautiful!
Believe it or not, it has been 21 years since the “new” fountain was built and dedicated! It always seems to me to be the most beautiful when it is first turned on when warmer weather comes to Central Illinois. It’s also beautiful when the flowers inbetween the bowls are blooming and the area is so colorful. Our newspaper offices were located on North Park street, across from the fountain, for many years so I always had a great view of it during the summer months. Now, since our offices are located a block away from Central Park, I always pause for a few minutes when I’m walking through the park to enjoy the fountain.
Probably, if our offices had not been across from the park where I saw the old fountain with its stagnant water and broken system out my window each day, I wouldn’t have been prompted to raise money to help build a new fountain.
In fact, I wrote about how horrible the old fountain looked in my column and the city manager stopped by my office after that edition came out and challenged me to do something about it. He indicated that, if I could raise $25,000 to show there was public interest in building a new fountain, the City of Decatur would be interested in working towards a new fountain. Thanks to a call from Darrell Beck and some other generous donors, the $25,000 was raised in a fairly short time.
After spending five years raising between $150,00 and $200,000, (thanks to many readers of this newspaper) and appearing before the city council several times, and about every area service club known to man, in getting the project off the ground, I mean “in the ground”, it was finally built and dedicated in 2002.
• OF COURSE, regardless of the project, someone is always going to be upset with the way something is handled or the finished project. During the night before the fountain was dedicated, some sorehead poured a negative substance in the fountain and scribbled a hateful message in black ink on the fountain’s rim. During the fountain’s dedication, soap suds could be seen in the fountain in an attempt to clean it up before the dedication.
• I’VE HAD a few people over the years say to me that building the new fountain was “one of the best things” I did during my years as mayor. Actually, I took on that project, raised the money and worked with those involved in building the fountain before I was elected mayor. When we dedicated the fountain in 2002 I was a candidate for mayor in the 2003 election.
• AS FAR as the money raised for the project, I established an account at a local bank which required the signatures of both the city treasurer and myself for any money to be withdrawn for any use. As records show, there was only one withdrawal — when all of the money raised was presented to the City of Decatur for our share of the fountain’s cost. Every penny donated to build a new fountain was spent for that purpose.
It’s been 21 years since the fountain was dedicated and I appreciate all of the hard work that city employees have done over the years in keeping the fountain operating and looking great.
• RETIRED Judge A. G. Webber sent me the following email: “A very small correction to your piece on Downtown’s Stately Buildings (Trib 5/3/23). “In one of my last acts before retirement, I prevailed on the Macon County Board to officially rename the ‘Macon County Courts Facility’ the Macon County Courthouse. “The ‘Facility’ designation was an invention of the Chicago bond lawyers who worked on the financing of the renovation of the Courthouse and Macon County Office Building in the 1990s.
“I always found the bureaucratic nomenclature to be lacking in dignity.”
Thanks, A. G., for the correction. I like the name Macon County Courthouse better than the “facility” name.
• PAYING FORWARD — Lucien Kapp sent me an interesting note: “May 2 my wife and I were at the Texas Roadhouse in Forsyth. Our waiter told us the bill had been paid by an anonymous party. We were greatly moved and humbled by this kind act of concern, yet felt unworthy of it. Dear unknown friends, please hear of our grateful thanks for both food and your sweet humanity. We will pass it forward by making a donation to the Water Street Mission so others in every day need may be nourished at your table.”
Thank you, Lucien, for sharing your experience with us. In the midst of today’s society when there is so much negativity about our fellow citizens, it’s refreshing to read news of someone brightening the day of others — and the “others” passing on that positive news through another act of kindness.
• FORMER City Councilman Bill Faber received a plaque from City Manager Scot Wrighton recently for his eight years of service on the city council. If I remember correctly, Wrighton is the only city manager during Bill’s years on the council, that Bill felt was doing a solid job in the position. Bill had praise for the city manager in a recent column in the Trib.
• OOPS! Thanks to all who let me know that “Decatur” had a letter missing in a headline on page 15 in last week’s edition. Just so you know…we put such misspellings in our paper to see how carefully people are reading it. (That’s the best excuse I can think of without straining my brain.)
• THE PREZ — The Decatur School Board’s new president, Bill Clevenger, spent a little time at last week’s meeting explaining the role of a school board in personnel matters. As the retired executive director of the Decatur Park District, a position he held for many years, Bill knows first-hand the responsibilities of those who are elected to public bodies like the school board, park board and city council. Seemingly, one of the most difficult lessons to learn for many who go into public office on a local level, is the boundary lines of responsibility.
• GLASS — Former State Senator and longtime friend, Duane Noland, sent me an email the other day with the following message about improvements to Route 48 South: “It’s smooth as glass (or at least a major improvement)!!! Come for a test drive.”
So, I’m going to take a test drive in the next few days! By the way, Route 51 South, that I’ve complained about for what seems like years, is also smooth as glass — shattered glass!!!! Hopefully, the resurfacing will be done before I’m too old to drive!
• WHILE I’m on the subject of roadwork, Monday night the Decatur City Council approved several items related to the start of the Brush College/Faries Parkway overpass project. Bids for the anticipated $62.59 million construction project will be opened by the State of Illinois mid-June 2023. Construction will begin later this year and will last an estimated 2-3 years. (Applause!)
• I JOIN Brian Byers on WSOY’s Byers & Co. every Thursday morning at 7:00 for the City Hall Insider to discuss the issues confronting Decatur and Central Illinois.