After living here in Columbia for 34 years, I thought I had become inured to the oddities and missteps of amateur government.

Well, a decorative fountain meant for children to play in the middle of Symphony Woods ("Reviews mixed for planned fountain," Feb. 2) certainly ranks up there with bad software decisions and water flumes that break down.

Has anyone ever sat near that same kind of fountain now operating in Fairfax, Va.? What you see there is a constant parade of parents and children and noisy adolescents. The only merchant who benefits is the adjoining ice cream shop; all the other merchants have large obvious signs saying, "Restrooms are for use of our customers." All this, in the middle of an active mall area, surveilled constantly by security. Is Columbia planning to install that kind of environment in the middle of Symphony Woods — restrooms and refreshments and security — specifically to attract parents with small children?

And when I saw that one council member bemoaned that we were thinking of doing on the cheap — only $450,000 — but we could spend more to rival the dancing waters at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, well, that just put the cherry on this cake.


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Has there been any cost/benefit analysis of this? Who are we trying to attract and does a fountain for children meet that goal? Even if we did this "on the cheap," what are the costs in the out years for maintenance? What is the cost in liability for essentially an unfenced attractive nuisance? I hope that calmer heads prevail and better use is found for that paltry $450,000 than a fountain in the woods.

Lewis Lorton

Columbia