Clapp Park vandalism has city council considering increased video surveillance

By Ralph Echtinaw

Vandalism in Oak Grove Cemetery and Clapp Park was a hot topic at Tuesday’s virtual city council meeting, conducted via conference call.

“We have been having repeated incidents of vandalism at the cemetery since summer,” said DPW Superintendent Mark Abbott in his monthly report. “Vandals have painted trees, headstones, the old vault house and storage shed and broken windows. (Fire Chief) Bill Coty offered to loan his trail camera and set it up near the old vault house. The culprits were caught on camera and good work by Officer (Jonathon) Rugenstein. The main miscreant was identified.

“Unfortunately, we have also had vandalism at Clapp Park. Youth have kicked spindles out of the gazebo and been seen standing and sitting on the railing, hanging from the rafters, etc. Gum has been stuck to the wall of the pavilion and picnic tables carved up and graffiti in various places, as well as quantities of garbage being thrown on the ground even though cans are readily available. I recently took photos of approximately eight youth standing and jumping up and down on the merry-go-round. Contact has been made with the schools to try to remedy this problem.”

Police Chief Richard J. Ramereiz Jr. told councilmen that he has two suspects and is trying to identify two more youths on the cemetery video. Ramereiz noted that it’s hard to get good detail on any person caught at night on camera.

Councilman Tom Reed proposed freeing up money to buy additional surveillance cameras for Clapp Park to “get good pictures of kids destroying things.”

“If council wants to free up some money for me that would be great,” Ramereiz said.

Currently, Clapp Park has just one surveillance camera.

Council then directed Ramereiz to look into the cost of augmenting video surveillance in Clapp Park. Ramereiz said one or two additional cameras will be needed, and they should be remotely traversable. 

Ramereiz noted that St. Louis is only school in the county that allows students to leave the campus during lunch time.

Contract let for new well

Councilmen approved spending $127,488 on a new well for the Gratiot Area Water Authority near the corner of Luce Road and Van Buren. Peerless Midwest of Ionia will do the work. The EPA will reimburse St. Louis for the cost of the well. This will be the seventh GAWA production well and the last one for the time being. The well will be owned by St. Louis only until construction is complete and then transferred to GAWA.

Giles sticking around

Council approved a new three-year contract for City Manager Kurt Giles. His annual pay will be $93,733 beginning July 1, 2021, $95,608 beginning July 1, 2022

 and $97,520 beginning July 1, 2023. The annual increases are two percent.

Giles told councilmen that the contract is “Essentially the same document we’ve used for the last six years.”

Asked if the money he’s getting is in line with what city managers elsewhere get, Giles said, “We think this is reasonably competitive. (It’s) in the ballpark.”

Councilman George Kubin said “it’s an expensive item to the city, but you get what you pay for.”

Penny Park fecal matter

Councilman Reed complained about goose droppings in Penny Park (on Prospect Street), which make much of the park virtually unusable for residents. “We can’t expect our kids to play in Penny Park,” he said. 

However, the city’s options are limited when it comes to geese. “There are certain things we can do and a lot of things we cannot,” Chief Ramereiz said.

“When I came (to St. Louis) in 1999 we had the same issues that have continued to the present day,” DPW Superintendent Abbott said via email. “We have tried several measures that were recommended by DNR with little success. As Canadian geese are protected outside of normal hunting season we are limited in what we can do. Law also protects their nests and eggs. Some of the recommendations are to grow a tall barrier at the shoreline. This was not done as it would impede people fishing at the shore and enjoying the view of the water. Growing vegetation at the shoreline also creates an area that geese like to nest in.”

Abbott tried a lawn treatment in Penny Park 15 years ago that was sprayed on and made the grass taste bad to geese. It didn’t work well, and rain soon washed it off. To continue spraying it would have cost $300 per application. That was “not a viable option” for Abbott. 

“I do drive my truck through the park occasionally to shew them into the river, but they return in a while,” Abbott continued. “We also tried a short fence with yellow streamers that was reported to be a cure. I watched them step over it. We do wash the walks off when we can.”

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