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Gov. Whitmer helps DTMB kick off summer by flipping the switch on the Brian J. Whiston Memorial Fountain

Governor Whitmer and Director Lange

DTMB Director Michelle Lange counts down with state employees for Gov. Whitmer to flip the switch to turn on the Brian J. Whiston Memorial Fountain.

On Wednesday, May 24, Gov. Whitmer flipped the switch to the Brian J. Whiston Memorial Fountain at an event hosted by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget (DTMB). The event is in its fifth year and brings together state employees based in downtown Lansing to learn about DTMB services, mingle with colleagues, enjoy music, eat lunch, and unofficially kick off summer.

This year, Gov. Whitmer joined the festivities and flipped the switch to turn on the fountain. The fountain runs Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., from mid-spring to fall, when the leaves begin to collect in the filter.

Governor Whitmer and DTMB Facilities Team 
The DTMB Building Operations Capitol Complex team pose for a photo after a successful start up for the 2023 season. Back row, left to right: Jeff Canfield, Mike Shippell, Doug Schafer, Josh Stahl, Davis Saldana, Matt Edwards, Dru Taylor, Jerry Schneider, Chad Gale, Larry Sanderson, Stephen DeMass. Front row, left to right: Doug Church, DTMB Director Michelle Lange, Kelly Lyon, Jerry Keeder, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, David Christensen, Cole Kinsman, Bryce Weneling, David Zmikly.

History of the Brian J. Whiston Memorial Fountain

The fountain was erected in 1983 and was officially turned on in a ceremony held Sept. 7 of that year. Designed by Bloomfield Hills architect Sigmund Blum, the fountain stands 24-feet tall by 14-feet wide, and the basin is 4-feet deep. The tank holds 10,000 gallons of water, which is collected, filtered, and recycled back through the fountain. Blum named his creation “Ottawa Falls” for the name of the nearby street and building, along with the significance of Michigan’s indigenous Ottawa Indian tribe. The total cost of the original project was $170,000.

In 2005, Ottawa Falls went dormant due to state budget challenges. It was revived 11 years later after a handful of DTMB’s building operations employees took it upon themselves to get it back up and running. For about $1,200 in materials and their own labor, the group from DTMB was able to perform the necessary maintenance and repairs and restart the fountain in 2016. While it may seem like a minor feat, the return of the fountain’s flowing water was symbolic for Michigan’s resurgence after the Great Recession.

In August 2018, the Ottawa Falls fountain was renamed for late State Superintendent Brian Whiston. Whiston worked diligently for the students of Michigan from an office in the John A. Hannah Building, which overlooks the fountain. The renaming of the fountain to the Brian J. Whiston Memorial Fountain honors his work and memory.

In the spring of 2022, DTMB’s buildings operations staff installed a variable frequency drive to the fountain’s motor to control speed and use less energy.