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Iowa courthouse struggles to keep goldfish

June 17, 2018

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — As a visitor to the Woodbury County Courthouse moved closer to a pool of water in the rotunda, four small goldfish darted from rock to rock.

Dry for a number of years, county officials decided to fill the pool and restock it with fish as part of the recent 100th anniversary celebration of the courthouse. Of the three dozen fish released in there two months ago, just a handful remain.

Rather than dropping like proverbial flies, the fish were “floating like dead goldfish,” County Supervisor Matthew Ung told the Sioux City Journal .

“Apparently our pump is heating the water too much and that’s what’s killing them,” Ung said. “Building Services is going to start cycling that on and off manually to reduce that heating effect as a short term solution. As a long term solution, we will have to spend a few thousand to get a better pump system.”

Ung was a leading proponent of re-establishing the goldfish tradition in the courthouse. In an April 10 tweet, he proclaimed: “My friends! My acquaintances! Noble Siouxlanders! People of the county of Woodbury! Townspeople of the Tri-State area! Goldfish have returned to the courthouse fish pond! In due time, they shall become not-so-tiny, and photogenically increase.”

Ung said the pool on the rotunda’s south end is an atypically distinctive feature for the courthouse, which was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1996. The pool is roughly four feet by four feet, with water currently about eight inches deep and some plastic green trees mixed in with the rocks.

“For decades, goldfish have had a tough time swimming in the pool on the rotunda’s south side,” Ung wrote about the history of goldfish in the courthouse. “Either they stink up the area, or their water leaks out, or vandalism gets them. Nostalgic building services employees are known to occasionally pay their respects by placing plastic or printed fish in the empty pool.”

Laura Ping, an elections clerk in the county auditor office, said she remembers fish swimming in the pool during her initial years working in the courthouse. Ping said she backs putting goldfish back in the pool “if they are going to stay alive.”

“It is kind of cool and the kids like it when they come in. But it is not working out,” she said.

Ung said it makes sense to get the right kind of pump for the pool, because “practically, it cannot be used for anything other than a fish pond.”

He looks forward to the time when people can see goldfish flourishing again. Ung cited an example from when he gave a courthouse tour in May to a Perry Creek Elementary class.

“I said I was going to go upstairs to make sure a judge was ready to welcome them into a courtroom, so in the meantime they were free to explore the atrium for a couple minutes until I got back,” he said. “Almost all of them instantly bolted up from sitting on the floor and stampeded over to the fish pond. It was cool and funny to watch.”


Information from: Sioux City Journal, http://www.siouxcityjournal.com

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