Vandalism rekindles public facilities debate

Photo from the City of Warren Police Department Facebook page A rash of vandalism at restrooms in City of Warren parks is prompting city officials to consider closing the restrooms for use by the general public.

File this under the definition of “why we can’t have nice things.”

Several parks restrooms in the City of Warren have been recently vandalized which is prompting city officials to consider close the restrooms to the general public.

Facilities that have been damaged include those at DeFrees, Betts and Beaty. Most recently, Department of Public Works Director Mike Holtz noted that Lacy was vandalized Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.

Holtz acknowledged that “vandalism at restrooms is nothing new” but said “this has been bad, worse than it has been in a few years…. Betts typically (is) one of the ones that doesn’t receive a lot of vandalism,” he added. “Somebody at Betts actually tried to pry a door off.”

“The crux of this is, the city spends $100,000 to $150,000 building these facilities. They’re very expensive,” he added. “Building these restrooms takes years to get the grant.”

“We have a continuing debate in the city, should they be open in the summer dusk to dawn?” or just during the playground program or when a pavilion is rented.

“Those are the things we used to do 15 years ago but people complained (that the restrooms) weren’t open convenient times. We’re starting to lock up the restrooms now more than we ever did again and that’s bad for the general public.”

A final decision on whether they will be locked outside of event times still under review.

“We’re working through that,” Holtz said, noting city staff discussed the issue on Wednesday. “(I) can tell you, if things continue, (they) will be locked up and that’s just a shame.

“The city just in last week has started to lock them down much sooner than they have,” he continued. “We are considering not having them open dawn to dusk to general public if this continues. Then everybody suffers. This has been a bad summer already.”

City of Warren Police discussed several instances of vandalism in a recent Facebook post.

“On May 12, an unknown person left painted hand prints and initials on the bathroom doors at DeFrees Park,” police said.

That was followed up on May 21 when “an unknown person threw a piece of brick or concrete at the bathroom stalls causing damage” at DeFrees, as well.

Police also reported that someone bent the women’s bathroom door at Betts Park on May 29.

“If you have any information regarding the damage to the parks please contact the Warren Police Department at 814-723-2700 or you can report it to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-83-CRIME,” police said.

“If anyone has any knowledge of who might be doing this stuff,” Holtz said, “(we) would really appreciate it if you call the city.”