Thursday, July 23, 2015

Fountain Runs Dry

Cook Fountain, Sweetser Park this morning

Murphy's Law summer edition dictates your lawnmower or air conditioner will break down mid peak season.  Mr. Murphy's municipal version, now playing out in Amherst town center, translates to a pump failure -- for the second time in two years -- at the historic Sweetser Park Cook Fountain.

UPDATE Friday afternoon:  Acting Town Manager Dave Ziomek just called and said the fountain was a "top priority" for the DPW, as it is a "crown jewel" of the downtown, and it would be fixed "very soon."

Better days (last month)

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Slow news day?

Larry Kelley said...

Nay, just waiting for District Court documents.

And then someone will complain that I only publish bad news.

Anonymous said...

That fountain is about as dry as your humor.

Larry Kelley said...

Yeah, I'm working on finding a dry font.

Dr. Ed said...

Shite happens, heaven knows.

BUT if it is something like a $50 pump burning out, you have a spare one in inventory, spend maybe an hour swapping it out, and call it "done." Kinda like putting a new bulb in a streetlight (some of those metal halide & sodium vapor bulbs aren't much cheaper -- and, in addition to everything else, the LEDs must be replaced as a unit.

Larry, I have respect for your DPW director, both as an engineer and as a person, but his people ought to be able to deal with these things. Either they didn't fix it right the first time (WHY?) or he/someone isn't able to delegate/manage to the point where someone can either say "the pump is shot, I think the best option is to replace it" and he/someone can say "I concur, go do it." -- Or, like UMass, he doesn't have people whom he could trust to go do much of anything without close and constant supervision.

Maybe he is too nice a person -- I've seen that before, guy had two airplane crashes because of it (one fatal) and is being blamed for yet another fatal one involving fratboys who took off on the wrong runway, hitting one of his pickup trucks that wouldn't have been there if his employee hadn't helped the boys refuel their plane (I think giving them some of his fuel for free -- with his knowledge, as they hadn't planned ahead). He's now looking at disastrous insurance rates and short two airplanes, one of which was lost because the idiot pilot wasn't bright enough to turn the full tank on while sucking vapors from the empty one, not that he should have gone out there without enough fuel in that tank to make it back.

Shite does happen -- but there does seem to be a LOT of it. The Christmas tree -- those LED lights don't draw anywhere near the electricity that the old C-9s did (once 9 watts per bulb, now 4-5 watts), or even what the incandescent minilights did (about 70 watts per string of 100, I believe). (Nor do they give off anywhere near as much light, but I digress.)

OK, the Christmas Tree (or Pagan Maple Worship Tree) was plugged into whatever it had always been plugged into, right? So why a problem last year? Things not being maintained? People not knowing to distribute a load between lines and putting it all on one? Someone not reading the instructions and "daisy chaining" too many strings of lights together and burning out the internal safety fuses in the downstream sets?

Like I said, I respect him as a person and as an engineer - and I suspect both that his budget is hurting because of two consecutive hard winters and that he may not be complaining as much about that as he should be -- and shite does happen. But....

Or is it the bureaucracy above him that is the problem here? When UMass realized that it was costing them something like either $30 or $60 to cut a purchase order and that they were cutting purchase orders for $5.00 items, and that vendors really weren't happy selling stuff to UMass because it would take them forever to get paid, something that a small business can't tolerate, they went to the procards. Yes, some of the stuff purchased might not have been approved with the preexisting oversight, (but some very questionable stuff --- the Justice for Jason T shirts, WAS notwithstanding it --- but it was a case of being "penny wise and pound foolish" and cheaper not to have the expensive (and time delaying) oversight.

Please tell me that they didn't have to go get three price quotes for a new pump....

Ed

Larry Kelley said...

I think you only need three quotes if the estimated price is over $5,000. Which I hope a simple pump is not. (Maybe Walmart has them on sale.)

Anonymous said...

Ed, think how much you could perseverate on Amherst if you actually lived here.

Anonymous said...

Ed, what the hell do you do all d.....never mind we know. You do nothing more than make a career out of turning any subject, no matter how simple or benign into your personal soap-box novel. Give it and the comments section of poor Larry's blog a rest, your rhetoric is tired and mostly inaccurate.

Or better yet move to Amherst, be a part of the community, and use all of the misplaced energy you put into these comments to actually DO something to impart change.

Jeremie Meyer said...

Nice to see all the money donated via the purchase of bricks is keeping it running.

Would anyone be peeved if I took my brick?

Larry Kelley said...

As long as it's not in a prime location.

Anonymous said...

Throw a couple tabs of Viagra in there, it should start right up.

Anonymous said...

A pump to run that fountain cost far more than $50. My guess is $500-1000. But the cost does not matter, the warranty does.

If this was to be reported to the public, how about the rest of the story. A town employee was responsible to buy a pump and make sure the town got a value. The last pump recently failed. The story here is identifying what went wrong. Either

1. A town employee needs to follow up and use the warranty on the pump and get it replaced. If a contractor did the work, keep them honest and them back.

2. A town employee was supposed to get an appropriate pump, but did not, got one with a poor warranty or hired a substandard contractor that does not support his or her work.

Either way, it is time for the town employee to finish their job or own up to doing a bad job. Either way if one was to report on this, isn't this the story?

Despite this, with the pump broken the town gets 2 things. Energy savings and less water waste. Are you sure this was not sabotage or town planning (as they often look the same)? It's pretty easy to get a pump to fail on purpose by putting something in the water.

Larry Kelley said...

Sometimes I just like to sprinkle fresh meat in a piranha infested stream.

Anonymous said...

Somebody give Ed a mirror so he can stare at himself.

Anonymous said...

Let's see if I got this right. Someone that doesn't live here is so obsessed with our little town that he thinks a town employee sabotaged the town fountain. This is a joke right? Am I on camera? You got me. I thought this was real.

Anonymous said...

Why not take the cost of a new pump out of the dog park fund.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anon 7:27. Many communities fund dog parks through fund raising and dog registration fees; they should not be funded with tax dollars. Besides, many dog owners in Amherst have simply ignored ordinances and turned most of the town's open spaces into dog parks anyway.

Anonymous said...

Hell I was told the town couldn't afford to buy any dirt in June. So they couldn't finish a job till after July. Now we're worried about dog shit?

Anonymous said...

Welcome to Amherst, land of the horribly misplaced priorities. When it's someone else's money........

Dr. Ed said...


Ed, think how much you could perseverate on Amherst if you actually lived here.

Give me what I want and I'll go away.

But I am not the person who wrote July 23, 2015 at 7:39 PM.

Dr. Ed said...

A pump to run that fountain cost far more than $50. My guess is $500-1000.

Actually, no. Sitting in the lee of the AC is better than changing my hot oil on an even hotter driveway, so:

Granger retails one at $138.20 and depending on what discount from that the town gets, it likely wouldn't be that much more than $50. I'd want to measure the run and calculate the flow, but it isn't like we are pumping out flooded basements here...

And as to wasting water -- fountains today recycle water. It's just like the motor oil in your car, a continuous cycle of the pump taking it to the top and gravity bringing it back down to be pumped back up again. I suspect that it initially had neither a pump nor electric supply to feed one -- that instead it was a continuous flow of potable water going through once and then into the sewer.

Then -- as now -- stagnant water in the pipes is a concern, bacteria can breed and while a few won't hurt you (nor will a few spores of Anthrax) -- well, one of the many things that the US Army did in Iraq (and should be commended for) was bury a lot of plastic piping -- safe (or safer) drinking water in and sewerage out -- straight out into the river, but at least children weren't playing in it anymore, which they had been. Cholera, "Montazuma's Revenge", infant mortality -- all kinds of nasty stuff can result from nasty things breeding in the water before you drink it.

It's why people drank beer --- you KNOW when beer isn't fit to drink -- and ETOH at higher concentrations (e.g. Rum) killed bacteria. It's why the Women's Christian Temperance Union paid for a lot of these fountains and such - they were trying to convince people that the water was safe to drink and hence you didn't have to drink beer (or hard cider). Likewise, towns advertised their water as a reason to visit or live in the town -- I know of a small church in Maine with a really nice well that (as a Christian duty) has an outdoor spigot for people to fill containers from, and this was even before people realized how much Arsenic was in some of their own wells.

A century ago, the expense was the infrastructure -- the pumping and piping --
See: http://www.grainger.com/category/compact-submersible-centrifugal-pumps/centrifugal-pumps/pumps/ecatalog/N-oqg?searchSortKey=none&kwdID=centrafugal+pump&s_kwcid=AL!2966!3!64873058930!!!g!!__EFKW__&adgrpID=12564968930

Dr. Ed said...


Of course, if you want to go "big time", Granger has some impressive pumps that retail in the $1.5-3K range -- if anyone honestly wanted to do something for the minority children in town, something legitimately nice and helpful to them (and their parents) and not just the political garbage stuff -- putting some sort of concrete bowl somewhere in South Amherst, putting one of these in it would be that.

It's damn hot in those Southpoint and Boulders apartments, there used to be a swimming pool -- it got filled in a few decades back, and that was a good thing. And something like this would become de-facto public and hence I say take down that now-unsafe silo that the TOWN required be left there, give the land to the town (or a 501c3) if the town doesn't already own it (or arrange some quid/pro/quo where Southpoint can demolish the silo if they give a different chunk of land in the back, or ask Mill Valley to donate some, they probably would) -- but whatever.

I know people don't like the military, but the National Guard builds stuff. For free as they need experience using all their heavy equipment. The UMass engineering students do to, for the same reasons, except they can't afford to donate supplies such as concrete and rebar. But other folks can, and I believe one person has at least some of her own heavy equipment.

The cops would have to baby sit it, at least at first, but the UMPD really like and are really good with child-sized children, particularly minority children. I've seen them with them, and I doubt UMass would say much if both Amherst AND the APD requested that available officers (in the summer, when UM isn't in session) went down there to be a visible presence to reassure parents that this was a safe venue. And as the cruisers would say UMPD not APD, the cruiser in the parking lot would mean "safe to come out" instead of "crime in progress, keep kids inside"

Like I said, if anyone ever wanted to spend five figures (maybe less) to do something really NICE for the minority children, a spray & play area DOWN IN SOUTH AMHERST would be it. See: http://www.grainger.com/category/fountain-and-pond-aeration-systems/centrifugal-pumps/pumps/ecatalog/N-oqq

Dr. Ed said...

Somebody give Ed a mirror so he can stare at himself.

As opposed to staring at a computer screen? ;)

Anyone know of a local vendor for (reasonably priced) pieces of 1/4" one-way mirror glass in the 12"-24"-36" square/rectangular range?

Do they even make such a thing? I want it for an "Ed-proof" storm door, something that I don't have to worry about breaking, quarter inch plate set in silicone (with some other things) works quite well, but I really would love to have a window that the ahole neighbors can't see through, just because it would SO irritate them that they couldn't.

And I'd like to do this cheap so that I can brag about how cheaply I did this.

Anonymous said...

Also erected in 1913, I myself have not run dry.