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Vandals spur Sylva to put more cameras in parks

Vandalism is apparently still a problem in Sylva public parks.It’s a problem that cost the town about ten grand last year to install four security cameras as a deterrent. But it wasn’t enough to do the trick, so town leaders will spend another $13,400 on more cameras this year. 

“We’re still having a lot of vandalism in the parks. It seems to be a lot of teenagers hanging out down there. It seems like we’re a babysitting service,” Sylva Public Works Director Dan Schaeffer informed town commissioners at a recent board meeting. “We just finished repainting all the tables down there, and they’ve already scratched paint off and put their names down there.”

Schaeffer asked the board members if perhaps the town could ban unsupervised teens — ages 13 through 17 — from being at the parks. Sylva Town Attorney Eric Ridenour was skeptical of such the proposition.

“People that have done wrong, we can ban,” the attorney clarified, “but I don’t think we can just blanketly ban 13- to 17-year-olds.”

Schaeffer told the board that it has been “only a certain few causing trouble.” Commissioner Danny Allen wanted names. Town Manager Paige Roberson told him that a couple of parents of some of the teens in question had already been contacted, to no avail.

“So, the parents are taking the side of their children,” Roberson said. “It’s difficult to make them see another way.”

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“Yeah,” Schaeffer added, “I got cussed talking to one the other day.”

During a budget workshop following the town board meeting, the issue came up again. Schaeffer described to commissioners how the toilet paper dispenser inside a park bathroom had been repeatedly broken.

“They keep breaking the thing off to steal the toilet paper,” he said. “It’s $45 every time we have to replace one.”

He also laid out the costs associated with purchasing an additional camera: $2,000 a pop.

“How much would it cost to fence these parks, so when they’re closed they’re closed?” asked Town Commissioner Harold Hensley.

Schaeffer said he thought the fence would be climbed.

“It depends on how high you put the chain link fence,” Hensley said. 

“They still get into the parks when they’re closed,” Schaeffer told him. “We find them sleeping in the tubes.”

“Well, if they’re sleeping…” Hensley began.

“Well,” Schaeffer clarified, “I think they’re passed out.”

By the end of the discussion commissioners decided to dip into the town’s revolving loan fund to buy some cameras. 

The town plans to purchase three new cameras for Poteet Park and two new cameras for Bryson Park. Poteet currently has one camera, while Bryson has three; those cameras were purchased and installed last year for about $9,000. Bridge Park, which currently does not have cameras, will get one. 

Commissioners will be considering this $13,400 expenditure along with the rest of the town’s budget in June.

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