Support for an emergency request to install security cameras at John Venezia Community Park was mixed Monday afternoon among Colorado Springs City Council members.
The park, which is still under construction, will cost the city $13 million to build. It opened to the public on July 8 and is the first park the city has opened in more than a decade. Even before the park’s debut, however, it has seen theft and vandalism.
Already, the park’s amenities were spray painted, lights were stripped of their copper and construction equipment was damaged and stolen, said Karen Palus, director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services. About $80,000 in damage has been done so far and the department is seeking $450,000 to install security cameras to curb the problems.
Vandalism at Venezia Community Park (Photo provided by Kurt Schroeder)
An emergency request would only require one vote from the council, while a regular ordinance would require two.
Palus outlined the extent of the damage for council members Monday during a work session. She told them many of the city’s parks have similar issues, but the theft and vandalism at Venezia Park have been surprisingly excessive.
Calling the vandals and thefts “thugs” and noting that he’d rather call them “inmates,” Councilman Andy Pico offered his support for the request. Councilman Merv Bennett also chimed in with his support, saying the issues need to be handled aggressively.
Several other council members, however, questioned whether Venezia Park’s need is greater than that of other city parks, which Palus said also regularly face bouts of vandalism.
Councilman Tom Strand acknowledged the damage as a serious issue, but asked Palus to compile a list of other city parks that have faced similar problems to ensure the council could try and treat them all equally. Council President Pro Tem Jill Gaebler echoed Strand’s request and said she doesn’t see the damage as an emergency and she would rather vote on the issue twice.
When asked by Strand, Palus said she doesn’t believe any of the park’s vandals or thefts have been caught. She noted that Parks is currently paying off-duty police officers to stand watch over night and there hasn’t been an incident since the officers began standing guard.
Adding yet another call for equity, Councilwoman Yolanda Avila noted that her district on the city’s southeast side has been asking for cameras for years, especially in places like Wildflower Park and the Deerfield Hills Community Center.
Since those calls have gone unanswered, Avila said the people in her district have taken the issues into their own hands. She said one couple cleans Wildflower Park on a daily basis.
“My community, they’re not squeaky wheels,” Avila said. “They go out and clean it.”
The council will vote whether to grant the emergency request during its regular meeting Tuesday.
Also Monday, Colorado Springs’ Public Works Department unveiled an interactive map of the city to provide in-depth information about ongoing infrastructure projects – a new tool for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians whose blood boils when they hit a closed road, detour or reduced lane of traffic.
Public Works Director Travis Easton told City Council members that the map shows all infrastructure projects taking place within the year. The map, available at coloradosprings.gov/publicworks, is set over a satellite image of Colorado Springs and allows users to filter their view in a number of different ways. All projects can be seen at once or they can be viewed individually. Users can also differentiate between stormwater, transit, engineering, traffic engineering and roadway operations and maintenance.
The map also offers budget and scheduling information, Easton said.