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Northampton City Council approves $75,000 in CPA funding for fountain at former state hospital

The City Council agreed, in an initial vote Thursday, to fund a $75,000 Community Preservation Act request to rehabilitate the cast-iron fountain that once sat in front of the main building on the Northampton State Hospital campus.

The plan put forth by the State Hospital Memorialization Committee calls for the fountain to be reinstalled in a “pocket park” on Village Hill that will honor the hospital’s patients and employees.

“It will be a place that people will be able to visit and reminisce about a very important time in Northampton history,” said Ward 1’s Maureen T. Carney, one of seven councilors to support the funding request.

The measure drew criticism at the council’s meeting two weeks ago, with several councilors questioning the price tag, the location and the lack of an initial fundraising campaign.

Since that meeting, several councilors said they heard from many supporters of the project, seven of whom spoke at public comment time Thursday, did some homework and were prepared to support the measure.

Ward 2’s Paul D. Spector, who expressed concern about the location and project cost at the last meeting, blamed himself for not learning more about the work that went into the CPA request.

“I think this has gone through a long process ... I should have known about it, but I didn’t,” Spector said.

The fountain project is expected to cost $145,000, about half of which would be raised through private donations. Of the $75,000 requested through the CPA, about $43,000 would go toward fountain restoration.

Ward 6’s Marianne L. LaBarge also changed her tune from the last meeting. Though she understands concerns about the project’s cost, she acknowledged the fountain’s significance to the city’s history and to all of the hospital’s former employees and patients.

“I find a tremendous amount of value in that fountain,” she said. “It needs to be there, there’s no question about it.”

The request won approval by a 7-1 vote, with Ward 5’s David A. Murphy the lone dissenter. Murphy said he is not against memorializing the state hospital, calling the fountain beautiful. He reiterated his stance two weeks ago that the fountain should be placed in a more prominent location in the city where it would be more accessible to the “rank-and-file” citizen.

Several supporters of the project said the location is perfect.

“They couldn’t have given us a better place, because the fountain is exactly where it was when it was in front of Old Main,” said Joseph Blumenthal, a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee.

Several councilors expressed concern at the cost of the project, but accepted assurances from members of the memorialization committee and other supporters that they will launch a private fundraising campaign to raise the balance.

MassDevelopment, the quasi-public agency overseeing Village Hill Northampton, has donated professional design services and has said it would donate the land for the fountain. Mayor David J. Narkewicz said the land is equivalent to one building lot.

Legacy Comments1

Thank you, Councilor Murphy - a lone, rational voice on the City Council. Shame on the rest of you - especially my rep, Maureen Carney, and the two councilors who I feel usually represent my sentiments in these decisions: Tacy and LaBarge. You let me down. What is the average cost of a house in the Village Hill neighborhood? Right....so my tax money goes to pay for a pretty fountain the well-heeled can admire. Fabulous.

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