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Skateboarding mars new plaza benches


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Three new Bartholomew County Public Library plaza benches have been damaged by skateboarders, and library officials fear they are beyond repair.

The backless benches were scraped and scuffed after skateboarders skidded across the top surface of each. A chunk of one bench broke off.

The benches are among a set of four placed in a new courtyard between the library, 536 Fifth St., and the Columbus Area Visitors Center.

 

Made of a special type of Spanish concrete, the estimated value for each bench is $5,000, plaza construction manager David Doup said.

The skateboarding was caught on library security camera footage, which has been turned over to the Columbus Police Department, library assistant director Jason Hatton said.

The footage shows a silver SUV and a black pickup truck pull into the library parking lot at 9:18 p.m. July 3. Three suspects got out of the vehicles and skateboarded through the library courtyard and on the west side of the library until 10:02 p.m.

They are seen several times grinding on the benches.

Hatton said the video surveillance shows what looks like skateboarders rubbing a substance on the edge of the benches before skateboarding on them.

The video footage also shows the skateboarders using a push broom to remove sand from the brick pavers before skateboarding over planters on the plaza, he said.

Columbus Police Department Lt. Mike Ward said a formal complaint was filed July 10 and that police have reviewed the footage.

Police aren’t able to identify the skateboarders from the surveillance, and there are no suspects at this time, Ward said.

Skateboarding on the benches could be considered criminal mischief and, with nearly $5,000 in damage, could be a Level 6 felony, Ward said.

But until suspects are identified and evidence concludes that they caused the damage to the benches, charges can’t be filed, he said.

Video surveillance shows the skateboarders were on the plaza on July 3 and July 10, each time after the library closed, confirmed on additional security footage, Hatton said.

Video footage from Thursday night this week did not show any skateboarding.

Checking on damage

Doup is researching whether the benches can be repaired or need to be replaced.

If the benches can’t be fixed, he said a crane and special rigging system will have to be brought in to remove and replace them.

The library does have property and liability insurance on the plaza, Hatton said.

The bench design and concrete were selected because of its unique look, said project designer Randy Royer of Blue Marble Design, an Indianapolis-based landscape design firm.

“They (the benches) were selected because of the design. The squares on the top alluded to the ceiling that’s in the library,” Royer said. “But when skateboarders attack anything, that’s what you end up with. For these folks to come in and tear it up so soon after it was completed is just a shame.”

Clips could be installed on the benches that would keep skateboarders from grinding against them, but they aren’t very comfortable for those who want to sit on the benches, Royer said.

The clips were placed on outdoor benches at The Commons and in Donner Park after skateboarders began grinding on them, Hatton said.

The library staff also is looking into ways to make the courtyard less inviting for skateboarders, Hatton said. They are considering adding handrails to the benches and installing signs to warn visitors they are being watched on a security camera.

It’s ultimately up to the public to call police if there are skateboarders on the plaza after the library closes, Hatton said. Library policy prohibits skateboarders or bicyclists to use the plaza for joyriding.

“We’re kind of at the mercy of the public to help us police their area. We work with the police to try and make sure they help patrol, but they can only do so much,” he said. “It’s a matter of catching people as they are there.”

The $1.4 million library plaza renovation was completed June 26 and unveiled to the public in a celebration concert June 27.

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