Italian fountain undergoes repair work

NANAIMO – Work has begun on the downtown centennial fountain, including mechanical and electrical system upgrades.

Restoration of the Nanaimo Centennial Fountain is now underway.

On Monday, the City of Nanaimo started a $35,000 repair job of the downtown centennial fountain.

The work is considered to be the first step of a long-term, phased restoration of the water feature at Port Place Shopping Centre, which was given to the city on the province’s centennial little more than 50 years ago.

The fountain, with its hand-carved salmon statues and colourful mosaics, has become a heritage site and  Nanaimo’s only community-built fountain, but the city has also acknowledged it’s in need of repair.

The concrete wall has begun to crumble, electrical work has corroded and the pumps have begun to fail.

Art Groot, the city’s manager of facility planning and operations, said the overall plan is to “reinstate the fountain” beginning with work on the safety, electrical and mechanical systems.

A chamber beneath the spillway, for example, has become unsafe and will be moved outside of the fountain, and a wall cracked from a car collision will be repaired.

“It gives us a great starting point to now look at where we can go now that we know the internal workings have been repaired and it’s been made safe from a maintenance standpoint,” he said, adding the city will work with the Italian community on aesthetic upgrades and repairs.

Fountain advocate  Blake McGuffie feels the city had a responsibility to maintain the fountain and more money should have been spent to prevent it from getting “as bad as it is now,” but he’s also ecstatic about the latest work, calling it long overdue.

“It really needs to be restored and it’s been a real long process. I have been working on this for two and a half years so far,” said McGuffie, who hopes to see the fountain eventually look as good as it did in its early years.

It’s unknown how much of an engineering report the city commissioned will be used in long-term restoration planning. Early estimates had pegged the complete face lift at $250,000.

Work on the fountain is expected to take approximately three weeks to complete.