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Pittsburgh has not turned on its public water fountains. Here's why.

Why are the public water fountains off in Pittsburgh?
Why are the public water fountains off in Pittsburgh? 03:07

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Despite hiring more than 100 new workers, the Pittsburgh Department of Public Works still has not turned on the water fountains and may not get to most of them this summer. 

The water fountain at the Schenley Oval hasn't been turned on, and it's not alone. The city has more than 200 water fountains, and KDKA-TV could not find a single working one.

Why are the water fountains off in Pittsburgh?

Retired teacher Vivian Kowalski, who strolls Grandview Park every day, thinks it's high time they were.

"It's hot, going up to 90 degrees," Kowalski said. "Everybody's sweating and needs to be rehydrated."

Normally, the fountains get turned on in late April and early May, but in checking throughout the city, KDKA-TV hasn't found a single working fountain. 

The Gainey administration has hired more than 100 new workers in the Department of Public Works and according to payroll records has shelled out $1.2 million in overtime through April 2024. But Public Works Director Chris Hornstein says none of those new workers can turn the fountains on.

"I have one plumber working for the city," Hornstein said. "We have over 200 drinking fountains."

Hornstein says only a plumber can turn the fountains on and the city currently has only one. That plumber is responsible for filling the pools and turning on the spray parks, the restrooms and the concession stands before he can get to the fountains.

The Department of Public Works has budgeted for three plumber positions, but Hornstein says it's only been able to fill one.

"It's just a struggle," Hornstein said. "If you're a licensed plumber in the county, it is a very, very competitive job market."

KDKA-TV's Andy Sheehan: "Couldn't we contract out?"
Pittsburgh Councilman Bobby Wilson: "That's what I'm doing. I'm looking to find the money to contract out because we have to get it done."

Wilson calls the situation unacceptable. He said if the city had trouble hiring plumbers, it should have put together a program to contract the work out in the spring. But Wilson says that may have to wait until next year.

"I'm disappointed the public can't have their water," Wilson said.

The city said once the plumber gets through with his other work, he will start on the water fountains. But it's unlikely he'll be able to make a significant dent by the end of summer. Then, he'll have to begin dismantling the ones he has done.

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