Tower Center water feature gets thumbs up

November 5, 2019

The City Council on Monday approved several agenda items relating to the Tower Center at Unity Square — the voter approved community green space under construction at Sixth Street and Dewey Avenue — including $150,000 in funds and a contest for an interactive water feature for the space.

Funding for the green space project was approved by voters in the 2018 General Obligation Bond Election as part of a $16.5 million bond package including several projects throughout the city, including $8,260,000 for park and recreational improvements, $5,120,000 for street repairs, $1,995,000 million for facility and equipment upgrades and $1,125,000 for storm drainage projects.

One park project slated for G.O. Bond funding is the Johnstone Park Pavilion Splash Pad, for which $355,300 (including financing costs) was identified as a discretionary project in the last G.O. Bond election. (Discretionary projects, also known as “30 percent projects,” are not required by law to be identified to voters or completed with general obligation bond funds while the remaining “70 percent” must be identified and require completion. The City of Bartlesville’s past practice has been to allocate funding for 100 percent of G.O. Bond projects. The City has completed 100 percent of the projects designated for G.O. Bond funding.)

In a staff report to the City Council, Community Development Director Lisa Beeman said the costs for the splash pad, which will consist of a flat concrete surface, dry deck splash pad approximately 20-feet in diameter with interactive fountains and sprays shooting out of jets at different heights and intervals, could be considerably lower if City staff completes preliminary site work, grading, utility connections and drainage and piping.

The saved revenue would then result in leftover funds becoming available for an interactive water feature for the Tower Center at Unity Square project, which was envisioned by the public and the committee tasked with design oversight for the space when the project design began. The feature, however, was not included in the overall budget for the green space.

“During public input sessions on the design of the community green space and from the public input survey, the desire for some type of interactive water feature was identified as a popular feature for inclusion in this community space,” Beeman said in the report. “While the Tower Center project is one of the priority projects which received funding through this GO Bond election, funding for a water feature at this location was not included in the $1,776,500 budget. In checking with bond counsel, staff was advised that all or a portion of the $350,000 in discretionary funding identified for a splash pad at Johnstone Park Pavilion could be reallocated to a splash pad or similar interactive water feature at the Tower Center facility with the vote of council.”

Beeman said the council-appointed design review committee for the Tower Center project is “very supportive of including some type of interactive water feature in this public space,” and that City Councilor Jim Curd presented the option to the Park Board, which also recommended splitting the funds.

The contest

“It’s a great way to end up with two (water features) instead of one,” Curd said while presenting the item to the council on Monday. He said the design committee, which oversees design recommendations for the Tower Center project, will organize a contest to solicit bids for the “winning” feature.

“The design committee will move forward with a competition to bid on an art feature for that work that would include the construction of the feature,” he said.

“This is a little different for us in that we will be accepting bids via a competition — because this is more artistic while a lot of our bids are quite simple,” said City Manager Mike Bailey, noting that most City projects are determined by staff, for which bids are then solicited. “With this project, we don’t know what the ultimate (outcome) will be because there’s more creativity involved. So it is a prize, but what we’ll do is solicit bids where the form of the water feature isn’t determined by us.”

Bailey said utilities for the feature are in place and that the $150,000 will be “for the installed project.” He also said some of the artwork in front of the City-owned Bartlesville Public Library was bid in the same way.

Curd said local architect Scott Ambler, who provided pro bono services for the Tower Center at Unity Square design, will be involved in the contest.

“(Ambler) is very familiar with this type of competition and has assured us there are people out there who are willing to incorporate something like this into a design that they would furnish for us,” Curd said.

Details regarding the contest will be determined and announced at a later date. Construction on the green space began earlier this year and is expected to be substantially complete in January or February 2020.