Ames officials say no to puppy fire hydrant



AMES, Iowa (AP) – Kevin Buck’s backyard puppy hydrant is doomed to revert to its original Kelly Green, but Buck has said his original goal has been met.

After a unanimous vote by Ames City Council last week, the fire hydrant, decorated to resemble a Dalmatian, will be repainted by city staff.

The idea of ​​painting the fire hydrant hit Buck, an Ames native, during the winter months as he looked at the “crazy original artwork” of people in other towns who used a fire hydrant as a canvas. He saw the business as a fun art project – even if it risked criminal charges – but his main motivation was the sight of a fire hydrant in need of a paint job.

The hydrant will match his other emergency water faucets again, and Buck will settle for a fresh coat of paint.

“I think the city is very well run, and so I certainly didn’t want to run into anyone,” he told the Ames Tribune. “I don’t agree with everything, but I have always found them more than accommodating.

Buck first contacted the city last winter to paint his hydrant and heard back in May. In June, council asked staff to look into a fire hydrant art initiative. Cities like Dekalb, Illinois; Albemarle County, Virginia; and Douglasville, Georgia, have initiated such projects.

In August, Buck got tired of waiting and got to work on the project.

Although he is the visionary, he cannot take credit for the actual paint strokes that have taken place. For this, he enlisted his crafty sister, Kathy, because “otherwise it would have looked terrible,” he said.

He prepped the fire hydrant by removing rust and painting a white base before his sister brought it to life. He envisioned creating a gumball machine concept for his other property’s fire hydrant, but the city quickly realized his puppy hydrant and the dog’s days were numbered.

The decision went to council, which was to take into account the fire department’s concerns about visibility and operability.

Ames has 2,990 fire hydrants. To keep them running, officials say a program should be started where staff could closely monitor each fire hydrant art project. One of the city’s concerns was how Buck’s project might inspire others to paint other standpipes without the knowledge of city staff, according to a staff report.

In addition, routine maintenance and street salts would quickly deteriorate any artistic designs, which would not be as easy to touch up as uniform color, according to the report, and “expectations should be determined regarding the maintenance of art”.

The Ames Public Art Commission has indicated that it does not have the bandwidth to undertake such a project this year, as it is facilitating two infrastructure art projects – a cabinet packing project from electrical transformers and an educational storm sewer painting initiative, as well as the commission’s annual event. programs.

In accordance with National Fire Protection Association standards, hydrants can be painted in different colors to indicate water flows. But Ames’ powerful water delivery system means such a color scheme isn’t needed, said Fire Chief Richard Higgins.

Instead, the city adopted a local standard: a uniform green. Fire hydrants on Iowa State property are a different color but still uniform. Their consistency, Higgins said, helps firefighters quickly spot hydrants when responding to calls for help.

“When we show up at the scene, we want to spend very little time trying to locate a fire hydrant,” Higgins said at Tuesday’s board meeting. “We want to spend more time making sure everyone is off the property and that the fire doesn’t get any further. “

The largely white design of the fire hydrant puppy could cause problems when a blanket of snow blankets the city during the winter months, Higgins noted. Buck argued, however, that the red hat and green base in his design addressed visibility issues.

Before council looked into the matter, Buck called on his neighbors to join him in asking the city to leave his fire hydrant intact in an article posted on the Ames People community’s Facebook page, which elicited hundreds of reactions and comments.

While some expressed sympathy for Buck’s cause, many shared the town’s safety concerns, and others further argued that the fire hydrant was not his to change into first place.

Still others had a little fun with the situation.

“Won’t someone think of all the poor confused animals that won’t know if they’re supposed to pee on them or sniff their butt?” a commentator wrote.

Another suggested new styles that could match the original: a cucumber, pixie, broccoli, etc.

Ultimately, the hydrant was meant to match all the others.

After just a few minutes of discussion at Tuesday’s meeting, the fate of the Dalmatian fire hydrant was sealed, with councilors ordering city staff to repaint the hydrant. Councilors also voted against implementing a fire hydrant painting program.

Buck’s act defied two sections of the city code, according to city officials: one prohibiting interference with a fire hydrant in any way, and another prohibiting painting of any property in the city. city ​​without permission.

“It probably reaches the level of criminal mischief, fifth degree, based on the cost of repair,” Assistant General Manager Brian Phillips said at Tuesday’s meeting.

In his motion to cancel the fire hydrant, board member Tim Gartin argued that a citation did not seem necessary. And some advisers seemed open to revisiting the idea of ​​a hydrant painting program in the future.

“I think it’s worth revisiting once the public art commission has the capacity to do so,” board member David Martin said on Tuesday. “We need to take the concerns of the fire department on this seriously; I just think we haven’t delved into this problem enough yet that I’m convinced it’s not a totally unworkable idea.

Although the outcome was not what he hoped for, Buck said the experience put him in touch with neighbors he had never met and allowed him to reunite with those he had. lost contact.

“I’m pretty good on the outside, and just the people passing by and how much they enjoyed it,” Buck said. “It was a fun art project.”


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