A flooded Fountain Square in 2021. (RoundTable photo)

A Wednesday afternoon press release from the city announced that the iconic fountain in downtown Evanston’s Fountain Square will have to remain off for the rest of the calendar year due to an issue with water loss from the fountain pipes.

City staff initially turned the fountain off in spring 2021, almost a year ago, after employees noticed that “it was unable to retain water,” according to Wednesday’s announcement.

Evanston hired multiple engineering firms to assess the issue with water retention and determine the best path forward for fixing the fountain. Those conversations and studies with the city’s engineering consultants ultimately found that the original fountain contractor that the city hired, Copenhaver Construction, Inc., “installed incorrectly sized waterstops inside the fountain and did not follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for installation, causing water loss of up to 4,536 gallons per day.”

As a result, the city is now demanding $5 million in damages from Copenhaver. City staff did not budget for the fountain repairs in 2022, so the fountain will remain off for the rest of this year before being fixed in 2023.

“The City and Christopher B. Burke Engineering have determined that extensive repairs are needed to fix the issue, including removal and replacement of granite pavers, existing mechanical systems, electrical systems, and concrete substructure,” the press release said.

According to the announcement, the city will set aside funds for the repairs in its 2023 budget, while simultaneously seeking reimbursements from Copenhaver.

Although the fountain will have to stay off this season, Fountain Square will remain open for public events, gatherings and activities throughout spring and summer 2022.

The city originally constructed the fountain in 1876 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but a war memorial replaced it in 1946. The new fountain that now needs repair was built as part of a Fountain Square renovation in 2018.

Copenhaver did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the RoundTable.

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...

3 replies on “Downtown Evanston fountain to remain off for 2022”

  1. The City of Evanston needs to be more transparent about how they select contractors. This is a glaring example. Another would be selecting Bully and Andrews over Walsh Construction for the construction of Robert Crown Center-despite their $10.0MM (roughly 20%) higher cost difference. Ostensibly, the decision was made because B and W promised to hire more minorities during the construction, but failed on this metric. The City of Evanston did not even exercise the payment hold back option despite B and W failing on this. Now-windows are cracking at RCC, and the new estimate to maintain the building is nearly 4 times what staff originally projected.

    Now Lara Biggs et. al. are talking about a $9MM pet shelter. Where is the accountability?

  2. By “demanding” does this mean a sternly-written memo or a legal course of action?
    Who was responsible for overseeing this construction? Did the city do a final inspection before accepting the project as “completed”?

  3. What a shame that the city was unable to do the work to repair the Fountain Square delightful fountain system over the past year! It had become a truly beloved gathering spot and source of wonder for many young children in the community, and it seems to me that with all the funds available through the Covid Rescue plan, some infrastructure money might have been usable.
    It’s just sad that the community has to wait another whole year to have it back again. Perhaps in the future, the city might work on doing a better job at choosing their contractors for such major public works projects.

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