City Council approves water fountains despite past vandalism concerns
During last night’s Picayune City Council meeting, the council received the fiscal year 2017 audited financial statements from City Clerk Amber Hinton. Julie Uher of Holt & Associates, whose firm performed the annual financial audit, was at the meeting to answer questions from the council in regards to the results of the audit performed.
In response to questions from councilman Larry Breland, Uher said that the city is financially sound. When asked to give a rating of the financial condition of the city, Uher gave the city a rating of 9.5 on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest number.
Julie Uher of Holt & Associates
Also during the meeting, the council heard a request to purchase five water fountains at various City Parks including two at J.P. Johnson, one at Snyder, one at Ben Taylor, and one at Leola Jordan. The request was brought to the board councilman Breland and council person Lynn Bogan Bumpers. The cost of the request was $6,400.00
During the discussion on the request, Breland asked where the money to pay for the water fountains would come from and Ms. Hinton told him it would come from cash reserves.
Council person Tammy Valente asked Trevor Adam, the director of parks and recreation, to elaborate on data she had received that the city has had problems with water fountains in the past. Adam explained that the city no longer has water fountains at Friendship Park due to vandalism and misuse of the fountains. Adam said the fountains had been ripped off the wall and filled with rocks and while the city attempted to repair them a few times, they finally removed the fountains and capped them off with no intention of replacing them.
Ms. Valente asked if the city had ever tried to repair them and Adam said that they had not after repairing the fountains two to three times per year due to vandalism. In response to Adam’s explanation, Valente commented, “That’s what I was afraid of.”
Council person Bumpers said, “When the kids are out there playing basketball at the parks, they need somewhere to drink water. They don’t always bring bottled water, so I think we should have water fountains in the parks.”
Mayor Ed Pinero told the council that he was the one told the city employees to cap off the water fountains in the past.
Pinero said, “I think water fountains are disgusting in public places. You get these people going around spitting tobacco in them. It’s not a spittoon and it grosses me out personally.”
The Mayor added, “I have no problem with the six thousand dollars if it is for anything else. On record, I am a yes vote, except for water fountains. If this were for benches or anything else out there (at the parks), I’ll vote yes today.”
Pinero asked for the motion to be changed to other options instead of fountains. He asked if anyone wanted to re-word the motion for something else for the parks?
Valente said that she was also a ‘yes vote’ until she found out the amount of vandalism that has occurred and that the fountains eventually get capped off anyway.
Bumpers stated, “I don’t want to drink from a water fountain either, but I want the fountains for the kids to have water, especially during the summer months. When we travel all over the place, they have fountains in different areas. I just want to give it a chance for the children, not for us.”
Valente asked Bumpers, “When you say give it a chance, if we put fountains out there and they are vandalized over and over, do you want the city to keep repairing them?”
Bumpers replied, “Of course you would want them repaired. They are not going to be vandalized all the time. Let’s not think that way. Let’s put it out there for the kids.”
Breland said that the city repaired lights and buildings at Friendship Park when they were damaged by vandalism and those repairs were several thousand dollars. Breland said he felt the water fountains proposed for the parks in this request should not be denied just because of the need for repairs due to vandalism.
Breland said “It’s a different thing and that’s the situation we are confronted with. At those parks, we have walking trails, basketball courts, and a pavilion and those people that use them are going to need to quench their thirst.”
Valente suggested the possibility of community involvement, possibly a fundraiser or some kind of event, to promote a spirit of ownership for the parks in those that use them, in hopes of curving vandalism.
Breland strongly disagreed and said that there was a “double standard”.
Valente told him there is a no double standard and Breland replied “Yes there is.”
Breland told her, "When I set here, when the city needs something, boom, no fundraiser, no nothing, we get it. On other things, it’s a fundraiser. When that’s done, and it’s not the same way, it’s a double standard.”
Valente then tried to explain to Breland that she was only trying to get people who use the parks to appreciate them and have ownership in taking care of them and hopefully minimize vandalism.
After more discussion, the council finally voted on the request with Breland, Bumpers, Valente, and Stevens voting yes and Pinero abstaining, which is actually a yes vote. Councilman Wayne Gouguet was on vacation and not at the meeting.
Before closing the meeting, Mayor Pinero reiterated that he will not drink out of a water fountain anywhere.