Sometimes I don’t understand

Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist

Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist

Sometimes I can’t help but wonder what swirls around in people’s minds.

Earlier this year the city of Hillsboro unveiled a beautiful gift — a fountain that a generous family donated to the city at a cost of more than $100,000. Now, because there must not be much swirling around in some people’s minds, the fountain has been shut down early. That’s a shame.

On Sept. 26 around 11 p.m., a person or persons, according to city officials who have the fountain under video surveillance, dumped two one-gallon bags of what the city assumes was dish soap into the fountain. I can’t help but wonder what they were thinking.

Having been a stupid and ornery youngster once upon a time, part of me can understand that someone might have thought it would be funny to pull such a prank. But did they think anything at all beyond that? Apparently not.

Because or that person or persons’ thoughtlessness, the city had to drain 4,000 gallons of water from the fountain, flush the entire system, replace filters, and more. Not only does such an act damage the fountain, it costs the city money to make all the necessary repairs, and takes city employees from other work that needs to be done.

It was not the first time in the fountain’s short history that it has been damaged. Someone dumped some type of soap in it another time, people have thrown trash in it, and, a city official said in August, “There’s been actually a lot of damage already to the fountain, from either skateboards or bikes. There are black marks and chunks actually taken out of the concrete on the fountain.”

I guess there’s a lot of empty minds out there.

When the generous family announced a couple years ago that they wanted to add a fountain to the center of the city’s landscape, I was not sure what to think. It was a nice gesture, for sure, but I wondered exactly how it would look, and how long its beauty would last, considering the shape of fountains I have seen in other cities.

But when I looked out my office window one day this spring and saw the fountain spewing water into the air for the first time, that all changed. I immediately ran back to our newsroom to see if someone could run a take a picture of the fountain. Unbeknownst to me, one of our reporters was already on the scene.

As the weeks passed and the fountain came to full life, I was drawn to it even more. And I was not alone.

It was always nice to look out my office window and see the fountain’s streams gently swaying in the breeze. I especially liked it at night when it was lit in different colors. Since my wife and I were out driving around on weekends more often than usual this summer because of COVID-19, if the uptown area was not too backed with traffic, I’d tell her I wanted to drive past the fountain.

On some trips to see it, I saw lots of people gathered around the fountain, enjoying the summer evenings and obviously attracted to the ambiance of the place.

Now a few empty-minded people have ruined that for me and everyone else.

When the city first announced that the fountain had been damaged by bicycles, skateboards or whatever, officials pointed out that there is a city ordinance that prohibits skateboards and roller blades on the sidewalks, streets and alleyways in the historic uptown district of Hillsboro, which the ordinance defines as “the four-block uptown area divided by High Street and by Main Street.”

The ordinance further states that, “Whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor, and the skateboard is declared a nuisance and is contraband.”

According to city officials, the penalty for that kind of misdemeanor could include “a fine of not more than $500, imprisonment of not more than six months, or both.”

“We didn’t want to prohibit bicycles from the historic district — I know people are passing through and wanting to ride their bikes uptown. We just want to prohibit damage to the fountain itself,” a city official said. “A very generous family donated this fountain, and it’s a beautiful addition to uptown Hillsboro. To see it damaged and vandalized is upsetting, and we need to do what we can to protect it.”

Yes, indeed.

Thank you to the generous family who gave our town a gift that brightened the uptown area at a dismal time. Hopefully it can be left alone, and enjoyed again, when spring rolls around.

Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at [email protected] or 937-402-2522.

Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist Gilliland Staff columnist