By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
Keizer is experiencing a bit of a heat wave.
Fortunately, there is a water fountain by city hall to cool off at – as long as you don’t come Mondays or Tuesdays.
Last Tuesday, as the temperature hovered around the 100 degree mark, splash fountain – in Chalmers-Jones Park at Keizer Civic Center, adjacent to the skate park – had a ‘closed’ sign stationed in front of it. Forecasts call for temperatures next Monday and Tuesday to be well into the 90s.
According to the City of Keizer website, Splash Fountain operates Wednesday through Sunday from mid-June until the Labor Day weekend. The fountain is on from 1 to 7 p.m. on days forecasted to be 75 degrees or above.
Robert Johnson, Parks supervisor for Keizer, said there is a reason for the two days of closure each week.
“It has always been that way since it was installed four years ago,” Johnson said. “There are two reasons. It gives us time to do routine maintenance. We hired a temporary person, not a city employee, to do an offset schedule, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. He can only work five days a week. To have it open seven days a week, we would have to bring in an additional person and the funds are not available.”
Johnson said changing the days would be a decision made by either Public Works director Bill Lawyer or City Manager Chris Eppley.
“I have never been told by the proper people to open it on days it is closed because of heat,” Johnson said.
Eppley deferred questions to Lawyer, who indicated Johnson does indeed have the authority to open the fountain on Mondays and Tuesdays.
“Robert makes the decision, based on daily operations,” Lawyer said. “If he wants to run it, he can go ahead and do that. The schedule can be adjusted on really hot days if we want to run it because of weather conditions.”
Tuesday evening, Lawyer said department heads met that day and voted to keep the fountain closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Johnson said turning on the fountain isn’t as simple as turning on a switch or pressing a button.
“It’s a recycled system,” he said. “It recycles all the water. It’s like a pool. The water is treated with chlorine and acids, just like a pool. There are two sand filters, then two other smaller basket filters. Then there’s another basket filter to get all of the crud out and to be chemically safe.
“The nozzles have to be cleaned all the time due to grass and sticks being shoved down them,” Johnson added. “There is the testing of the water and you have to make sure the computer screen is reading correctly. We have to change probes out quite a bit and clean them, about every other day. It’s done every day during the peak season of the heat.”
The process to get everything cleaned, the water tested and a warm-up cycle typically takes about an hour, Johnson estimated. The system automatically turns off at 7 p.m. The fountain can also be turned off if it’s raining or if no one has been using the fountain for an extended amount of time.
“We would most likely shut it off to save power and to cut down on the chemicals being used,” Johnson said. “There is a lot of work involved. It’s recycled water, so it has to be 100 percent safe.”
Lawyer also emphasized the safety aspect with the 1,500 gallon tank.
“It’s operated very much like a swimming pool,” Lawyer said. “We have to make sure the water is safe.”
In addition to working on Splash Fountain, Johnson said the temporary employee does other work such as mowing and cleaning tables at parks.