Three downtown Naperville fountains to be repaired, updated to the tune of $423,000

Naperville plans to expend $423,600 to repair three downtown fountains despite some elected officials taking issue with the price tag.

The Naperville City Council voted 6-3 to award a contract for the work to Addison-based Crossroad Construction at its meeting Tuesday night. Council members Allison Longenbaugh, Nate Wilson and Josh McBroom opposed the expenditure, voicing concerns that more than $400,000 was a steep cost for fountain work.

“At this time, I’m just uncomfortable with spending that amount of money on this option, which just locks the city into future long-term maintenance on fountains,” Longenbaugh said.

“I think it’s a lot of money,” McBroom echoed.

The contract will cover the cost of fixing and updating the city’s Exchange Club Memories Fountain at Fredenhagen Park, Horse Trough Fountain just west of where Main Street and Chicago Avenue intersect, and Dandelion Fountain near Jackson Avenue and Webster Street. All border the Naperville Riverwalk.

Most costs and attention will be focused on Exchange Club Memories Fountain, which hasn’t been functional since summer 2021.

The water feature sits at the heart of Naperville’s 1.1-acre Fredenhagen Park. It was named by the Exchange Club of Naperville, a civic service organization that was a primary donor for the park when it was constructed about two decades ago.

The club dedicated the fountain to “memories” because it sold bricks and stones on which purchasers could have messages engraved to honor friends, remember loved ones or commemorate a milestone as a means of funding the park. Those bricks and stones surround the fountain.

Fredenhagen Park itself honors Walter Fredenhagen, founder of the iconic Cock Robin ice cream shop chain. For 70 years, before closing in 2000, the creamery served square-dipped ice creams and malted milk shakes from a location on Washington Street where Fredenhagen’s namesake park and accompanying centerpiece fountain now sit.

Significant leaking shut down the fountain nearly three years ago. An assessment found broken piping and a compromised waterproofing membrane that needed replacement. It was also determined that the vault containing fountain’s water feature controls required safety upgrades and that fountain lighting could be replaced with a more energy-efficient system.

Initially, repairing the fountain to its former glory was expected to cost about $400,000 alone.

“We all had sticker shock when we saw (the first estimate),” Bill Novack, director of the city’s Transportation, Engineering and Development department, said Wednesday.

The fountain work made it onto a list of capital improvement projects to be tackled last year but was put on hold while other alternatives were explored in the hope that a less costly alternative could be found.

The city’s Riverwalk Commission considered installing a more natural water feature with plantings or converting the fountain into a static art installation before deciding in August that restoring the fountain was preferable.

“In the end, the majority of the Riverwalk Commission said, ‘Hey, let’s put it back to the fountain that it was,’” Novack said.

As staff was preparing to seek bids for the Memories Fountain work, they received word from the Naperville Park District that two other downtown fountains — Horse Trough and Dandelion — required some less-extensive work. To keep costs down, staff decided to lump all of the fountain work together in one bid.

“A decent chunk of any project’s cost is always mobilization,” Novack said. “You know, getting a contractor to come into town and bring their crews here.” In hiring one vendor for all three jobs, crews can cycle between the projects, he said.

When the city solicited bids for the work in March, the only submission was from Crossroad Construction. Novack said that while he would have “loved to see other bids,” most contractors already have jobs lined up for the year. Plus, not a lot of contractors do this sort of work, he said.

Of the $423,600 earmarked for the projects, $365,400 will go to Memories Fountain, $32,900 to Horse Trough and $25,300 to Dandelion. The improvements will be expensed out of the city’s capital projects fund, Novack said, who noted, “we have sufficient funds budgeted.”

All of the repairs should be completed by mid-July.