Larry Neill, left, and Jeremy Hardy of Western Automatic Sprinkler in La Grande add another length of sprinkler pipe for the kitchen area of the new Riverside pavilion building. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
Western Automatic Sprinkler installs automatic sprinkler system
by DICK MASON / The Observer
Mark Touhey, the City of La Grande parks and recreation director, was stunned by the offer he received last fall.
Today, he still speaks about it with a tone of disbelief.
Touhey was told by John Schwendemann, the president of Western Automatic Sprinkler in La Grande, that he would like to install an automatic water sprinkler system for the Riverside Park pavilion. The pavilion was rebuilt in 2012 after being destroyed by fire the year before.
Touhey was momentarily at a loss for words after hearing Schwendemann’s proposal.
“I said, ‘OK,’” the parks director said with laugh.
Schwendemann made his offer because he wanted to do his part to prevent a second fire from razing the pavilion.
“I couldn’t stand the thought of (a fire at the pavilion) happening to us again,” Schwendemann said.
He is having his company put in the sprinkler system because of how much the pavilion means to him and the community. Schwendemann noted that his family has conducted three reunions there and countless other families have had weddings and birthday celebrations there during the pavilion’s century-long history.
The structure officially re-opened last June thanks to volunteer help from community members. Today, many are stepping forward to make the pavilion a better place and nobody has stepped forward in a bigger way than Western Automatic Sprinkler.
“A lot of people have done a lot of things, this is huge,” Touhey said.
Schwendemann and his staff started installing the sprinkler system about a month ago and their work should be finished by this weekend.
Had the City of La Grande installed a sprinkler system for the pavilion, it would have cost about $25,000. This does not include the expense of installing a water pipe for the sprinkler system, something the City of La Grande has done.
Touhey said the city could not have afforded the cost of installing a sprinkler system.
“Our budget would not have allowed it,” Touhey said.
Western Automatic Sprinkler employees who have been helping Schwendemann install the system at the pavilion include Larry Neill, Tyson Neill, Jeremy Hardy and Tim Narron.
Touhey said these people are among many volunteers who have stepped up over the past two years to make the pavilion restoration project successful.
“We are ending up with a better facility, one which should be around another 100 years,” Touhey said.