ITHACA, N.Y. — The “crown jewel” of the Ithaca Commons has been out of commission for weeks as city employees work on troubleshooting a problem with the water flow.

Parking Director Peter Messmer said the $466,000 granite fountain has been closed for about two weeks and it’s unclear when it will be reopened.

“We don’t really know because we don’t know yet what repair we need to do to it,” he said. “Basically, it’s using a little more water than we expect it to use … we don’t know why.”

The fountain debuted last spring as the final piece of the yearslong Ithaca Commons construction project. Its construction was delayed after the $15 million Commons project faced delays and saw many people coming and going into various roles.  So as the construction wrapped up, it was unclear exactly how much money was left for the originally planned nearly $700,000 fountain.

“It’s sort of the crown jewel of the Commons and we’re committed,”  JoAnn Cornish, Director of Planning and Economic Development, said at the time.

A new, smaller fountain,  designed by Sasaki Associates, was eventually built and opened on May 1, 2017, but the water didn’t flow for long.

The Ithaca Commons Fountain on May 1, 2017. Photo by Kelsey O’Connor/The Ithaca Voice

Two days later, the Tompkins County Health Department shut it down after people were seen playing in the water.

“We were made aware that the fountain is using recirculated water. Because of that and the fact that we have witnessed folks coming into contact with the water, the fountain as it stands, as we understand it today, would fall under our Water Rule. We’ve instructed the city to turn off the water at this point to eliminate any potential risks while we get a chance talk to them about next steps,”  Frank Kruppa, director of the Tompkins County Health Department, said last year.

The fountain was reopened the following week with flower barricades set up to keep people out of the water.

Messmer said the latest repairs are happening because a city employee noticed that the water level height had noticeably gone down.

He said the Department of Public Works isn’t entirely sure how much water should be in the fountain, but there’s currently not enough.

During the process of trying to repair the fountain, a piece of granite paver, which lines the bottom of the fountain, was also cracked in half.

Messmer said fixing the crack should be a relatively easy task.

He also said the fountain, luckily, is still under warranty.

The Ithaca Commons fountain has been out of commission for weeks. Photo by Jolene Almendarez/The Ithaca Voice

Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.