Vandalism vexes city council on restrooms

Vandalism resulted in the closure of park restrooms at parks across the City of Warren this year.

While those restrooms remained closed, what will be done in the future was discussed during Warren City Council’s Monday meeting.

Parks and Recreation Director Mary Ann Nau said that vandalism is not new to park restrooms and has been “more like pranks” previously but was “excessive” this year. She explained that partitions were torn down and major damage was done.

“Once the summer park program ended and pool time ended, we began closing restrooms,” she added, noting that she has received a complaint on the issue and told the individual that the city would be working to allow some type of access, “maybe assigning a person to come in and get a key. That was just a suggestion.”

Police Chief Raymond Zydonik said cameras, one potential security solution, are something that has been “asked for in the budget each year but doesn’t seem to make it past that.”

Beaty, DeFrees, Crescent and Lacy playgrounds have all experienced restroom vandalism issues.

“Restrooms that are locked are useless,” Councilman Sam Harvey said. “What are you saving them for if you’re not going to use them? (The City) might as well knock them down. If we’re going to have restrooms in the park, we have to find a way to get them open. Next summer, we should look at some way to keep the playground restrooms open.”

“I agree with you that when you have restrooms you should them open,” Nau said, noting that a portable toilet placed at Betts Park ironically has not been bothered.

“I was a big proponent of getting them closed,” Department of Public Works Director Mike Holtz said. “The paper supplies were amazing. Every day, all the paper towels and all the toilet paper were gone. (We) were spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars on maintenance supplies. That became an issue on top of vandalism.”

Councilman Jim Zavinski proposed a keycode lock system where the number is only given to individuals over the age of 18. “We gotta do something,” he added. “At least if you have a family and they have to use the bathroom, you have access to it.”

“It would make (vandalism) a little bit harder,” Harvey noted.

City Manager Nancy Freenock asked Nau to “reach out to her network.”

Nau said that she has been working in parks and recreation since 1980 and “haven’t found any answers” to this problem. “Security cameras would provide feedback,” she said.

Freenock noted that “security cameras cannot be placed inside the bathroom. Zydonik noted that they can but in non-private areas such as over the sink.

Harvey said that examining this issue at budget time would be appropriate to consider potentially rolling out a pilot program.