Commonwealth Journal

August 15, 2013

Fountain expected to make a big splash today

by Bill Mardis
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —

If things go as planned, sometime today the newly created fountain in the center of Fountain Square will come to life.
Tiffany Bourne,  community development director for Pulaski County, said the water may be “off and on” as workers test the fountain. “ ... but we want to get the water flowing,” she said.
Somerset’s new fountain is designed by Russell Sitter, a Lexington water feature consultant known as “The Fountaineer.” The impressive display will feature 19 jets propelling water 15 feet into the air. An inner-raised pool will overflow into a lower pool.
The fountain will have a mind of its own. Sensors atop First and Farmers National Bank building on the south side of the square will lower the water display in light wind and shut it down completely when the wind is high.
Bourne said The Fountain Square Beautification Project is about 90 percent complete. “We’ve still got to do the crosswalks and we’re waiting on the furnishings,” she said.
A dedicatory program for the new-look square is planned but not yet scheduled. Bourne said she wants “ ... every i dotted and every t crossed” before setting the dedicatory date.
Fountain Square has been a gathering place since shortly after Somerset was first settled in 1798. Old photographs show horses and buggies tethered at the perimeter of large crowds standing on what appeared to be dirt footing.
A fountain has been there 105 years. A committee of county justices and town commissioners was formed in 1893 to plan for a fountain on the public square. Some 15 years later -- in 1908 -- this was accomplished when a group called the Commercial Club raised $1,250 from citizens and businesses. This, along with appropriations from Pulaski Fiscal Court and Somerset Town Council, was used to pay for developing the square and installing a fountain.
Electricity to operate the fountain was from a line extended from the courthouse. As hand-written minutes and documents produced on manual typewriters gave way to electronic recordkeeping, the spewing fountain often overloaded the courthouse’s electrical system and disrupted equipment in county government offices. 
The new fountain has its own electrical system. It sits in the center of a new-look square, renovated with an $800,000 Transportation Enhancement Grant and $200,000 in-kind contribution from county government. It updates a centerpiece last renovated in 1963 by the late Senator and Ambassador John Sherman Cooper and his wife, Lorraine.
Designed by M2D Design Group and Bell Engineering, new Fountain Square is an open plaza space that serves as a focal point and an inviting gathering place. Steps and surrounding walls provide a variety of informal seating.
Center of the square is a circular plaza of concrete paving and brick pavers. Memorial bricks are located in paver bands and commemorative plaques will be on benches and planters. The square renovation is designed to be cohesive with and complement the plaza at Pulaski Court of Justice.
The statue of John Sherman Cooper is back in place, looking south toward First and Farmers National Bank. A simple landscape of lawn, evergreen shrubs, grasses and trees create a low maintenance frame for the plaza. Six of the existing cherry trees have been preserved. Concrete planters will provide opportunities for seasonal color.
Stamped crosswalks will provide safe pedestrian crossings directly to Fountain Square. A raised island with a roll curb and stamped concrete will be a pedestrian refuge at East Mt. Vernon Street. 
New striping and arrows will help direct traffic through the square. Signage will be consolidated and relocated on mast arms.