Unable to Stop Vandalism, St, Francis Considers Closing Parks, Playgrounds
Vandalism in their parks and playgrounds has gotten so bad, St. Francis leaders say they might just have to shut some of them down.
Repairing the damage is costing tens of thousands of dollars that the city says it just doesn't have.
Teenagers are the prime suspects, but so far, no one's been able to stop them.
One of the main problem areas is Seelye Brook Park. On Saturday, parents let their kids return to the playground; last week they kept them away. Explained Amanda Thomas, a mother of three who lives across from the park, "My little kids don't need to be reading what they're writing on the park."
The climbing wall was covered in profanity-laced graffiti.
David Padilla, another parent who lives across from the park, said, "I'm very disappointed that some parents don't have control over their kids' behavior."
As he walked around the park, Steve Kane, one of St. Francis' City Council members, said, "We've had problems over here with the swings. They've (the vandals) broken the chains, torn them down." Pointing to the slides nearby, he added, "This plastic tunnel was melted. They set it on fire."
Kane says St. Francis leaders spent $4,000 on repairs in the park, in just the last week. That number only includes equipment, not labor. And if that weren't bad enough, the problem keeps reoccurring, "Every two to four weeks," Kane said, "we're back to fix something else. You could be looking at six to eight thousand dollars a month, times six months. That's a lot of money for a little city like St. Francis."
In all, the city has spent more than $50,000 cleaning up vandalized property this year. Down the road from Seelye Brook, vandals recently pried open the concession stand and restrooms at Community Park, setting fires and smashing toilets.
"We don't have a separate budget for vandalism," Kane said. "What it's done is we're cutting back on some of the street maintenance. We're putting it off for a year to help pay for this." They've considered putting up cameras and additional lighting, but again, that's not in the budget.
So what's the answer? City leaders are hoping for an old-school solution. They're calling a community meeting.
"Somebody must have seen something," Kane said. "You can't do that much damage time and time again without anyone seeing anything."
And if that doesn't work, they might just remove the playground equipment. "Take it all out," Kane said.
A drastic measure, but Kane says the city has to do "what's best for the taxpayers."
Mark Saxenmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org