CANTON — As the wind whispers and sometimes whips through the village green, farmers market vendors pitch tents and birds call from the oaks, one sound is missing.
When the Rev. Michael P. Catanzaro walks to First Presbyterian Church on the south side of the village green, he can’t hear the fountain, essentially the heartbeat of the village.
“It’s a tangible part of what it means to be part of this community,” Rev. Catanzaro told the Times this week. “There’s not a kid in Canton who doesn’t have a memory of eating an ice cream cone by the fountain.”
But by next summer, the silence is expected to transition to a steady trickle descending from the emblem’s three raised tiers into a revived basin. The iron fountain was removed from its station in the center of the park last week, and work has begun on its restoration after four years of fundraising and contractor searches.
First Presbyterian pastor and cochair of the Canton Park and Fountain Campaign, Rev. Catanzaro said escalating leaking issues in the fall of 2016 launched the three-phase plan for the fountain’s structural restoration, park tree replacement and installation of new stone pavers.
Owned by First Presbyterian and maintained by the village, the park continues to function as a meeting space and the home of the farmers market as Locke Design and Build completes phase one through the fall. By Monday, ground had been broken, with the iron apparatus and water basin removed, fill and conduit placed and the crew preparing to pour a concrete foundation.
The phase one contract, signed by Locke and First Presbyterian, is worth $134,000 and comes after two years of the village and church requesting bids. Previous bids were submitted at too high of a cost or without a commitment to obtain a performance bond, a type of project insurance.
The Park and Fountain Fund, a separate account under the church’s tax ID, has collected thousands from businesses, organizations, parishioners and other community members since the project was conceived, exceeding $100,000 by 2018. Phase one will be paid out in segments in the coming months, Rev. Catanzaro said, but $15,000 is still needed to cover the total $134,000 contract.
“We took a leap of faith,” he said, adding that the community’s patience and generosity has been exemplary as progress has stalled and started again.
As the owner of the park, the church is not eligible for most government funding or grant programs, so the fundraising onus has largely fallen on the community.
Last spring, the Northern New York Community Foundation awarded $20,000 toward the fountain restoration project, with a $10,000 matching challenge grant for all gifts contributed to phase two of the project, up to $10,000, and the other half of the award to be used to establish a permanent endowment fund at the NNYCF for future fountain maintenance and enhancements.
Canton high school class gifts, Chamber of Commerce auction proceeds and a Seaway Valley Redevelopment Agency grant are among the several contributions to the fund, which totals more than $124,000 across all phase designations.
Donations of any amount are being accepted for the final phase one push. Checks made out to the Canton Park and Fountain Fund can be sent to First Presbyterian, 17 Park St.
Paul D. Mitchell, who Rev. Catanzaro described as instrumental in the fundraising process, said the fountain is a “majestic fixture” of Canton, and village officials, including Mayor Michael E. Dalton, Superintendent Brien E. Hallahan and Economic Development Director Leigh Rodriguez, continue to be especially supportive of the restoration process.
“There are very few truly good things happening in the world right now, and this is one of them,” Rev. Catanzaro said. “When the community is looking, doing and feeling better about itself, good things follow.”