Security cost for Doko Park mounting

BLYTHEWOOD – During the Town’s budget workshop last week, a discussion of the increasing incidents of vandalism in Doko Meadows (the town park) and the increasing cost of security to prevent that vandalism, became contentious.

A total of 36 security cameras have been keeping an eye on the goings-on in Doko Park and around Town Hall since last November, but Town Administrator Gary Parker said that while the cameras have helped, there is still considerable vandalism. To cover the park more adequately, Parker suggested Council might want to install two more (vehicle) tag readers and three more security cameras in areas not currently covered.

“If someone had thought about all we’re going to spend when they started this park, I’m not sure they’d have done it. We’ve spent $100,000 on cameras now,” Councilman Tom Utroska said. “It has to end someplace. It’s never going to be perfectly secure. You can’t have cameras between every tree.”

“We’re providing a public facility that’s becoming more and more popular every year,” Parker said. “So more and more visitors are coming to town property. This is a security measure to protect those people and the Town itself.”

Parker asked Council if they see more cameras as a valid expenditure justified by the potential problems that could result.

“Nationwide, more and more towns use cameras. Myrtle Beach has over 800 cameras watching the city. It’s a Council call,” Parker said.

“Let’s leave it in the budget for now and have (Ron) Perryman (National Alert Security System) back to discuss this with us before we decide,” Mayor J. Michael Ross said.

But the issue of park security didn’t end there.

“We’re having a lot of problems with playground (security),” Steve Hasterock, Director of The Manor, said. “We have people coming over from The Point because they aren’t allowed to smoke cigarettes (on the premises), so they come over and smoke behind the gas station and then come into the park. We’ve also got kids as young as 5 and 6 years old taking rocks from around the public restrooms and the drainage pipes and throwing them in the pond.”

Again, it was suggested Council invite Perryman to the June work session to discuss how to solve the playground security problems.

Parker also advised Council that there is now the additional problem of rolls of toilet paper being stolen from the dispensers in the park restrooms. Parker suggested using $750 of the $8,000 in the Parks & Recreation budget (designated for cleaning supplies) to purchase six new theft-proof toilet paper dispensers.

Ross also said it is now necessary to hire someone to clean the park restrooms twice a day on weekends, adding another layer of expenses to the park’s budget.

But it was a discussion about whether to secure the soccer fields with up to $20,500 of fencing that caused Council’s fur to fly.

“We need a quote for fencing the park’s athletic field,” Parker advised Council.

“Why?” Utroska asked.

“For security and to prevent children from kicking the soccer ball in to McLean Road,” Parker said. “It has been brought up to at least fence along McLean Road.”

Parker said the cost for 400 linear feet of galvanized fencing along the road would cost $5,300, with more attractive vinyl-coated fencing in blue, brown or green costing $7,000. To surround the entire soccer field in galvanized fencing would cost $15,000, and vinyl coated fencing would cost $20,500. The quote, Parker said, was not a bid, but a ballpark cost from the company who fenced the playground.

“Fencing the entire field will also help prevent vandalism,” Hasterock said.

“Then they’ll just tear down the fence!” Councilman Malcolm Gordge, Ross and Utroska blurted out in frustration.

While the Jeep Rogers YMCA on Kelly Mill Road will be renting the soccer fields in the fall, Ross pointed out that, for now, he has never seen more than 5 or 6 kids on the field at one time.

“Maybe put a fence down McLean Road,” Ross said. “But I’m not going to pay $20,000 to put a fence around that thing. We’ve got too many things to spend money on. We could talk all day about things like someone running in to the parking lot chasing a butterfly. That’s nuts! So we put ‘em inside a fence and they climb over and fall andbreak a leg. We’re going too far thinking we can prevent every little thing.”

“There are generic risks with a park – we have a pond out there,” Hasterock cautioned. “But there are philosophical arguments that we need to reasonably try to prevent things like that. When the YMCA comes in and they start having lot of games and practices, maybe that’s the time we should consider this (fencing).”

“Maybe they should put the fence up,” Utroska said.

“I could ask,” Hasterock said.

“He’s just being facetious,” Ross joked jokingly about Utroska’s comment.

“No, I’m not,” Utroska countered. “If the persons using it (the soccer field)…” He paused. “I’ve said enough. I wrote a note on my copy that says ‘money pit,’“ Utroska said, showing his notes to Ross who was seated next to him.

“The park?” Ross asked.

“Yes,” Utroska said.

Bringing the discussion back to center, Parker asked if it was Council’s desire to leave the budget item for fencing blank for now or plug in $7,000.

“I would say put the fence on McLean Road,” Councilman Larry Griffin said. “It shows then that we’re trying to protect. I go over to Richland County’s big ball fields and there is no fencing. And you’re not going to stop vandalism by putting a fence up. We might put the fence off another year until we see larger groups out there. Put the money into the cameras so you can get the (vehicle) tags and the vehicles.”

“Then we can use the revenue we get from (renting the fields to) the YMCA to put the fence up,” Utroska said.

A third budget workshop will be held May 25.

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