Nebraska would spend $2.5 million to install four fountains included in the original design for the State Capitol, under a proposal introduced in the Legislature Friday.
If you’ve visited the Capitol, you’ve probably glimpsed its interior courtyards through windows on the first or second floor. Right now, they contain grass, bushes, and sidewalks. But if Omaha Sen. John Nelson has his way, they’ll each be graced by fountains in time for Nebraska’s 150th anniversary of statehood in 2017.
Nelson says architect Bertram Goodhue included the fountains in his 1920 design for the building, but the state ran out of construction funds before they could be built. “The original design shows a kind of a large, round bubbling-type fountain, not one that sprays up high in the air,” Nelson said. “In his travels around the world, the architect -- the designer of the Capitol -- saw these fountains in Persia in a lot of courtyards and was impressed by them. So this is the design right now.
The courtyards are not used very much currently. But they are accessible, and large doors lead to the one outside the Capitol cafeteria. Nelson says adding the fountains would enhance the building as a public attraction. “There are a lot of tourists, a lot of people that come through the Capitol because it’s such a spectacular building. And that will just enhance what they see here and those especially outside the cafeteria will be available for people to come out and use,” he said.
The $2.5 million proposal appears to have a lot of steam behind it. In addition to Nelson, it has 30 co-sponsors – more than a majority of the 49-member Legislature.
Even if there is smooth sailing for the fountain proposal, the same cannot be anticipated for contentious issues like taxes, Medicaid expansion, and others that are expected to dominate debate this year. Speaker of the Legislature Greg Adams referred to that prospect in remarks to senators as they wrapped up their first week of the session.
“As we set out on what will be a pressure-packed session, because its 60 days and we all have things we want to get done, talk to one another. Find agreement if agreement can be found. If you need my help to facilitate, that’s part of the reason why I’m here,” Adams said, adding “if all else fails, we need to be civil to one another.
Whether senators follow Adams advice and resort to civility will be tested when debate on measures left over from last year begins next week.