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Irmo wants Columbia’s Busted Plug sculpture

The Busted Plug sculpture, where it sat on Taylor Street before the property was sold for development and the 40-foot fire hydrant was donated to the city of Columbia. In the back is “Tunnelvision,” the mural on the Agfirst building also created by the Busted Plug artist, Blue Sky.
The Busted Plug sculpture, where it sat on Taylor Street before the property was sold for development and the 40-foot fire hydrant was donated to the city of Columbia. In the back is “Tunnelvision,” the mural on the Agfirst building also created by the Busted Plug artist, Blue Sky. File photograph

Irmo is interested in becoming the new home of the Busted Plug, one of downtown Columbia’s landmarks.

Town officials are exploring relocation of the iconic sculpture as their community’s first piece of public art. But it would cost money to move the 40-foot metal recreation of a troubled fire hydrant.

“If the price is right, we probably would be in agreement to put it out here,” Irmo Mayor Hardy King said.

But Town Council on Tuesday deferred moving forward on the idea amid uncertainty over its cost and Columbia’s interest in retaining it.

Meanwhile, Irmo won’t engage in a civic tug-of-war to obtain it, King said.

Leaders of the town of nearly 12,000 residents will pursue the move only if Columbia passes on keeping “the plug,” King said.

Columbia officials haven’t settled on the sculpture’s future since being given the 15-year-old piece in late 2012.

There’s been a proposal to convert it into a splash pad for children at Finlay Park in summer while remaining on view year-round. But that idea didn’t go forward.

City Council accepted the sculpture from AgFirst Farm Credit Bank after the the Taylor Street parcel where the piece has stood since 2001 was sold to apartment developers.

Blue Sky, the Columbia artist who created the sculpture, is agreeable to a move to Irmo if town officials restore it as the working fountain he intended.

Sky is unhappy with what he says is Columbia’s “indolence.”

Columbia has been contacted by Irmo officials about their interest in the sculpture, assistant city manager Missy Gentry said. The final say on its future is up to City Council, she said.

Irmo leaders are talking about using hotel taxes – a new source of revenue for the town – to put up outdoor sculptures that could attract travelers off I-26.

That money must be used for tourism-related projects, so “we’ve got to start coming up with ideas,” King said.

Starting an outdoor sculpture park with the Busted Plug would be a great kick-off, he said.

Relocating it 11 miles to Irmo is estimated to cost as much as $200,000, King said.

“I’m sure we can find it if we want to do it,” Town Councilman Barry Walker said.

Staff writer Clif LeBlanc contributed to this story. Tim Flach: 803-771-8483

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