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Ask us: Where's the water in the Town Square paddlewheel?

Why is there no water in the water wheel at the downtown Town Square this summer?

Visitors to the Town Square of downtown Grand Forks might have noticed something a little off -- the square’s iconic entrance, a paddlewheel sculpture that doubles as a water feature, has been dry all summer.

John Bernstrom, a communications specialist with the city of Grand Forks, said that isn’t by design. Earlier this spring, when city crews were readying the paddlewheel for its summer service, Bernstrom said they realized the plumbing for the arched fountain was broken and in need of some “decent-sized” repairs.

Rather than paying the full cost of fixing the system, the city decided to just patch it up and see if that was enough.

“They got to the summer and … they tried it one weekend, they thought maybe it could work,” Bernstrom said. “It made it one day. But the patch was just that -- a patch. It didn’t work that well, so we drained it.”

The full repair of the paddlewheel has been put off as the city awaits a report on the use and development of downtown open spaces now being compiled by a municipal committee. That work could be done by this fall, Bernstrom said, and will likely inform a broader set of changes that could rework the central square in ways beyond just repairing the wheel.

“It’s not so much different plans for use of Town Square, but maybe a larger rehab project there,” he said. As the development plan takes shape, Bernstrom added, the Grand Forks City Council may see a need for public dollars to be redirected elsewhere. For the time being, the water won’t flow at the downtown paddlewheel.

“The plan is like any other plan, as opposed to, ‘Let’s just fix it because it’s broken.’ ” he said. “We’re looking at overall picture and we need to see that plan.”

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Andrew Haffner

Andrew Haffner covers higher education and general assignment stories for the Grand Forks Herald. He attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he studied journalism, political science and international studies. He previously worked at the Dickinson Press.

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